Consider tax exemption for a cause

The universe has a unique way of working and we never know how and when it brings us an opportunity to support and do something good for others. Here is a small incidence that introduced me to the path of charity. Just a week ago, I was consulting with my friend on how to cut down on tax. During the discussion, we came upon various ways such as housing loan, house rent allowance, children education allowance, medical insurance, donations, and the like. Though I had heard of these means, but contributing donation was something new for me. Curiously, I furthered the discussion on it. And, patiently my friend familiarised me with the whole concept of tax deduction on charity, the gist of which I have narrated below.

Food for children

Witnessing the impactful groundwork of NGOs, the Government of India has made a provision wherein contributing donations to registered NGOs or charitable trusts can exempt you from paying taxes on the donated amount under Section 80G. You can either claim for 100% or 50% exemption on the donated amount based upon the NGO you have donated and the terms set by the Income Tax Act. This is applicable for both online donations and offline donations.

For instance, I identify with children-specific causes such as the right to education, child rights, and child health and development. So, I chose to contribute my taxable income to The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO for children implementing the Mid-Day Meal Programme in association with the Central Government of India and various State Governments. The Mid-Day Meal Programme is an initiative that provides freshly cooked nutritious school lunch to government school and government-aided school children on all school days. And, Akshaya Patra aims at providing ‘unlimited food for education’ with the intention of supporting the education of children. This NGO has been in the service of children for the past 17 years, with a current beneficiary base of over 1.6 million children across 34 locations in 12 states of India. The tangible impact of Akshaya Patra is clearly visible in the stories of children and the impact studies that have been conducted in association with third-party research agencies.

Personally, I was convinced with the service of Akshaya Patra and decided to make my foray into charity by donating to the Foundation. For more information on charity tax exemption, just click on tax-deductible donations. I am glad that I am saving tax by supporting millions of children, and would suggest everyone to connect with the cause.

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5 ways an Indian NGO is empowering children

Empowering children

NGOs address a wide range of social, economic, and environmental concerns. But, every NGO has its own core area of work and influence. Similarly, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an Indian mid-day meal NGO focussing on providing nutritious school lunch to government school children to counter classroom hunger and promote education. The NGO began its service way back in 2000 by serving meals to only 1,500 children in five schools of Bangalore. Over the 17 years of service, this NGO in Bangalore has progressed to become a nationwide movement to promote education and health among children through the Mid-Day Meal Programme.

By implementing the Mid-Day Meal Programme in schools, Akshaya Patra wants to provide nutritious food to children, encourage uninterrupted schooling, improve health, and provide an avenue to explore aspirations so that children grow up to be confident and reliable citizens of the nation. In simple terms, Akshaya Patra is empowering children to be the future leaders of the nation.

Mid-day meal benefits

Broadly speaking, the Mid- Day Meal Programme has had a significant impact on the education sector of the country. Studies report that there has been an increase in enrolment and attendance rate, improved health has been observed among children, and there is a decrease in the drop-out rate. This programme has proved itself to be a supporting pillar in bringing and retaining children at school. Working in a Public-Private Partnership model, Akshaya Patra is extending the mid-day meal benefits to children right at the grass root level. Currently, it is providing mid-day meals to more than 1.6 million children on every school day across 34 locations in 12 states.

Observing the impact of the school meal programme, Akshaya Patra aims to feed 5 million children by 2020. Indeed a humongous task, but is achievable with a concerted effort from all of us. Hence, Akshaya Patra has provided an online platform to contribute to the cause. You can opt to donate online, start a campaign, sponsor a school or kitchen equipment, or just spread the word about Akshaya Patra’s cause. Your involvement will enable this NGO to empower more children across the country. So, be a part of nation-building by getting involved with Akshaya Patra.

Do items in your shopping basket add up to Rs. 95?

“Your total bill amount is Rs. 3,542”, said the cashier as he handed over the bill to me.
I took out my wallet, paid him the amount. And, as he was packing the items in a bag, I wondered ‘has my needs increased, am I buying impulsively, or has the prices of the commodities skyrocketed.’

Shopping basket

Graphically speaking, I fail to understand how my grocery bill constantly shows an upward trend every month. I don’t remember when was the last time somebody handed me a bill of below Rs. 1,000. It does bother me, but again with the usual humdrum and busy schedule, I forget about it until the next shopping. And, then came the moment of truth when on a regular day at work, I saw my colleague donating to an NGO named The Akshaya Patra Foundation. After she finished her transaction, I enquired about the NGO. Her reply completely left me amazed.

She said, “Akshaya Patra is an NGO for children that provide food to government school children on every school day. The NGO has been operating the school meal programme for the past 17 years. It has a pan-India presence and presently serves school lunch to more than 1.6 million children.” At this, I stopped her and said that it must be a really expensive affair because grocery for one household itself costs somewhere between Rs. 2,500 – Rs. 3,000. My colleague smiled and said, “Akshaya Patra feeds 3 children for an entire year with Rs. 2,850.” And, she pointed towards the donation page of the NGO. I was totally stumped at what I had just heard and what I was seeing on the screen.

She added, “Though I am in a situation where I can afford food, I know how the hunger pangs feel. On the days when I have to skip my breakfast and rush to office, or skip my lunch to complete a report, my body and mind give up. It becomes very difficult to remain focussed on what I am doing. Well then, what about those children who aren’t even sure of getting their next meal. This particular fact drew me to support Akshaya Patra’s cause because their effort ensures at least one nutritious meal per day. That’s why on every special occasion like my birthday, my parents anniversary or during festivals I make online donations for NGO.”

And, before I could process all that she was saying, my colleague scrolled down the page and said, “When you donate to Akshaya Patra, you also become eligible for 80G deduction on your donated amount. This means the amount you donate becomes eligible for tax exemption, a benefit that you can utilise at the time of income tax filing.”

That evening, to find answers to the innumerable questions popping in my head, I read up on the humongous task that Akshaya Patra is doing. In the end, I realised that maybe I can never bring down my grocery bill, but I sure can ensure nutritious meals for children for an entire year with an amount less than my monthly grocery expense. And convinced with Akshaya Patra’s endeavour, I took my first ever step towards contributing charity!

Valuing food production and tackling food wastage in Akshaya Patra

“Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes”, cites CSR journal. Not a pretty picture for a country where millions go hungry, every day. The deplorable hunger condition in India can be gauged from the below facts:

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In addition, according to the FAO’s (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations) estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017” report, India is home to the largest undernourished population in the world with:

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While the country is battling these statistics, spending capacity and consumption trends among consumers have only worsened the hunger scenario. Despite being in such a critical state where India cannot afford to waste any food, it is reported that Rs. 88,800 crores worth of food wasted in India per year. Apart from ‘food loss’ i.e. wastage of raw food products during harvest, storage or in transit, mainly due to inadequate and disorganised infrastructure and supply chain, ‘food waste’ i.e. wastage of food at the consumer level. Below are some of the areas that contribute to maximum food wastage:

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And, ironically, India is home to both ‘food waste’ and ‘food loss’!

However, kudos to the several organisations that have directed all their efforts towards countering the prevalent hunger situation. One such organisation is The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an Indian charitable trust serving mid-day meals at government schools. The main inspiration to establish this Foundation came from a heartfelt incident many years ago. One day, during a visit to Mayapur, a village near Calcutta, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada saw a group of children fighting with stray dogs over scraps of food. This incidence left Srila Prabhupada immensely disturbed, and he set forth a resolve that no child within a radius of ten miles from our centre should go hungry. This motivating and determined resolution led to the establishment of Akshaya Patra in June 2000 with the core objective to feed the children so that they get nourishment and education too.

Initially, the Foundation served cooked meals to just 1,500 children in five government schools of Bangalore. This Indian charitable trust is cognizant of the importance of food in the lives of people, especially children. Hence, to maximise the potential of the school lunch programme, it employs state-of-the-art kitchens, innovative technology, and smart engineering to cook and deliver nutritious and hygienic meals to each school on each working day. The Foundation operates centralised kitchens in urban and semi-urban regions and decentralised kitchens in remote areas. The centralised kitchens are highly mechanised units with the capacity to cook up to 100,000 meals, whereas decentralised kitchens are smaller units operated by Self-Help Groups under the supervision of Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in-charges and catering to a group of schools in a particular area.

It is imperative that such large-scale cooking requires a lot of planning and structured processes so that neither raw materials nor cooked meals reach the trash bin. Hence, Akshaya Patra mandatorily follows some standard operating processes such as:

SEO-Blog-4-post-4The above-mentioned measures have helped Akshaya Patra combat food wastage in its purview of operations. And, by doing so, this Indian charitable trust is making nutrition-rich food available to over 1.6 million children on every school day. So that this NGO can multiply its reach, it has made the online donation for charity available to all for easy and safe transactions. Every contribution towards this NGO will be directed and utilised in ensuring food security for children through regular school meals. Additionally, this lunch will support children in continuing school, concentrating better in their lessons, and participating actively in co-curricular activities such as sports and cultural.

Needless to say, if we can contain food wastage, it will benefit many millions of lives, not just in India but globally too. It is estimated that if we can save one-fourth of the food that is currently being wasted globally then we will have enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world which also includes the 194.6 million hungry people in India. The concern of food wastage is so critical that it receives a clear mention in the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 stating, “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.” Hence, when there is adequate food production, and availability of advanced technologies for harvesting, storing and disbursing food products, than the onus lies on us to ensure that every citizen avails the right to food, and every child is nourished and healthy.

Akshaya Patra’s role in children’s development

The vision statement of Akshaya Patra states: ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.’ In June 2000, the Akshaya Patra Foundation was founded with the objective of ensuring that no child missed schooling for want of food.

Akshayapatra Role

Over the last 17 years, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been playing a pivotal role in the emotional, social and physical development of young school-going children. In fact, these have a direct effect on their overall development while growing up into an adult. That is why it’s important to understand the need to invest in young children.

Young children are like sponges when learning. Hence, these formative years are very important. A major role is played in ensuring children get the best by many a charity for children that facilitate learning.

While the Foundation ensures adequate nutritious food, it also does some other work too that ensure the holistic development of children:

  1. It holds after-class tuitions for children to ensure even those children who may not have anyone to guide them at home too are on a par with other children.
  2. It also holds community health camps. This ensures that children, their families and the whole community get access to the best in healthcare.
  3. It conducts health check-up camps which helps provide treatments on time to the needy, especially children.
  4. The Foundation organises life-skills programmes that makes the deprived children fit enough to have a fair shot at success and can compete in this highly-competitive world, and
  5. The Foundation also has scholarship programmes for children from families that are economically challenged which allows them to afford the best of books and study materials.

Molding children

Referring to a few studies, former US President Obama had said in an address in 2013 that early childhood education had a great impact on life’s outcomes. This is a universal truth and hence even the deprived children should get adequate quality education. One can donate for education in India to ensure these children are able to go to school and are able to study like normal children.

The approach to building a strong foundation for a child’s emotional, social, physical and mental development, which will prepare them for a lifetime can be used during the schooling. Socializing with people other than one’s family in a safe environment is an essential foundational element and a school provides the right environment. This is facilitated by the mid-day meals provided by Akshaya Patra which makes children stay on in school and gain most out of the opportunity.

One can sponsor a child and ensure they are able to play a part in the whole process of a child’s development. One can do their mite by donating to education of children from deprived sections of the society. One can contribute to ensure that at a least child can get good education without having to worry about hunger while concentrating on the studies.

How you can make a difference this new year

It’s been over a week since we entered 2018. And, most of us would have strictly tried to stick to our New Year resolutions. Most popular among them, of course, are those relating to diet and weight loss.

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Most of us would have probably started slacking off on the resolutions to exercise every day or go for a walk every day. While looking for a resolution, why not look for something that you believe you can stick with, instead of doing something that you know is easy to not stick to.

It’s still not too late to start off on a resolution. Why not resolve to donate to charity this year. You could do so by contributing for the causes supported by The Akshaya Patra Foundation. By opting for regular payments, you will be happy that you are able to stick to the resolution and, the best of all, contribute to a worthy cause.

Impact from Reach

Akshaya Patra’s Mid-Day Meal today reaches over 1.6 million children across the said 12 states in the country. The children are supplied from 34 kitchens from 12 states.

A mere Rs 950 can feed a school-going child for a whole year. Imagine, the impact such a small amount can have.

The change that it can bring out in the life of a child by guaranteeing he/she can stay at school and not worry about lunch ensures that the child can stay focused on the task at hand, that of learning.  This is perhaps the biggest of the advantages of mid-day meal scheme.

The funds needed to support the growing movement, no less, can in fact be boosted. This can ensure that the children continue to enjoy wholesome meals every day. The Foundation has been tech-savvy. It has taken to online fundraising to stay with the times so that you can be part of the movement.

Spreading Smiles Through Food Every Day

The humble beginnings of The Akshaya Foundation started with it serving mid-day meals to about 1,500 children in the year 2000 to five government schools in Bengaluru. The foundation, known for its dedicated service, now aims to reach 5 million children every day by 2020.

NGO for Children

Having started with just one van transporting food from a kitchen in Bengaluru across the schools, the Foundation today serves over 1.6 million children across 13,800+ schools in 12 states across India. The food supplied is cooked in 34 centralised and decentralised kitchens operated by the Foundation. Corporates and Individuals donating for education in India have been a major support to the Foundation.

Built on a public-private partnership model, Akshaya Patra combines good management, innovative technology and smart engineering to deliver a nutritious and hygienic school lunch. It has taken one baby step at a time, and over time adopting a near corporate-style of functioning, including annual auditing by highly respected auditors. This has ensured that it is trusted by every donor. It also got the respect of many multi-national companies to support the cause of a top NGO like Akshaya Patra.

The Foundation’s kitchens are built leveraging the state of the art technology. The meals are prepared with a minimal human contact with the food and thus are extremely safe and hygienic.

Started with a vision that “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”, it has been very successful in meeting the aim to a very great extent. Despite the huge and daunting task ahead of it in a country where millions of children are born into economically-challenged families, it did not deter the Foundation.

But, to keeps its good work going, it needs continuous flow of funds. It’s only the NGOs’ role in India that ensures the needy children are reached across the country.  It has today come to be one of the largest such mid-day meal schemes in the world and it’s growing rapidly.

Why Children Need a Wholesome Meal

What makes the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme significant? It’s because it feeds the children with wholesome meal. This kind of meal aids in growth of their body and mind. During their childhood, children are more prone to develop at least one of the micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A, iodine, iron, zinc or folate. They must be given a wholesome meal in sufficient quantity to ensure their body develops with their age.

Food for children

The mid-day meal programme run by The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO that has kitchens across India. One of them is in Surat. From their state-of-the-art kitchen in Surat, the meal is supplied to various schools in and around Surat.

The NGO is feeding the children in Surat as part of its nation-wide programme that’s run in collaboration with the Government. This programme lays emphasis on the wholesomeness of the meals because these meals directly impact children’s growth. The NGO, that began operations in the year 2000, works in active collaboration with the government and government-run schools in order to feed the children.

In Surat, the school children are especially excited as they are getting their favourite meals every day served by the NGO’s volunteers. As part of the Hunger Action Month, the NGO is trying to take mid-day meals to more schools in Surat and other parts of Gujarat.

The contributors or donors to the NGO get the benefit of 80G deduction in income tax. That way more donors are encouraged to contribute and help in feeding the children. However, it’s not just the 80G deduction that encourages people. Many people in the city take out time to volunteer in the kitchen. They help the staff in cooking the meals and serving it to the children.

The kitchen of this NGO in Surat especially uses pulses such as Toor dal, fortified soy dal, green gram whole, Urad dal, peas, Moong dal, cow pea, green gram sprouts, soy products like- chunks, flakes, Gram dal, Bengal gram whole, channa dal etc. while preparing the meals. Since the menu is already in place, the meals are always healthy and wholesome and benefit the children.

Feeding the children with wholesome meals is significant today if we want our children to experience a healthy growth. You can join us this month as we observe Hunger Action Month and attempt to eliminate hunger among children in India.

Role of NGOs in uplifting children

Non-government organisations often take up charity for children because they know children are the future of the nation. There’s a long list of NGOs in Bangalore that are involved in the causes related to children.

mid-day meal in school

Among them is a prominent NGO in Bangalore, Akshaya Patra that provides food and education to children through charity resources. This specific charity for children aims at reducing classroom hunger, thereby, bringing children to schools. NGOs like this are playing a crucial role in eradicating both hunger and illiteracy among children. The NGO in Bangalore follows a certain guideline which is used while preparing a wholesome lunch in their kitchen. With its state-of-the-art kitchens that prepare hygienic food, the NGO ensures that more and more schools are added in the list of serving the food in Bangalore schools.

This cause also encourages parents to send their children to school and gives them an equal opportunity to study as well as get a healthy meal. Akshaya Patra believes that both physical and mental growth of children could be stunted if they are not served nutritious food.

Even as the government in India strives to make primary education free and compulsory for children, school drop-out rate continues to rise. And the major cause of this rise is classroom hunger. The only effective way to eliminate this cause is to serve wholesome mid-day meals in schools so children are motivated to attend schools every day.

The NGO gives its well-wishers an opportunity to contribute towards this charity by inviting online donations, encouraging people towards online fundraising campaigns and partnering with corporate sector for resources and volunteers. You can also play a major role in helping NGOs such as Akshaya Patra by choosing to contribute in whatever way you can. Sponsor a child today!

 

A sneak-peek into Akshaya Patra’s mega kitchens that feed millions of children

Akshaya Patra Kitchens

Imagine 100,000 meals being cooked in a single kitchen under strict norms of hygiene and quality control. Akshaya Patra’s state-of-the-art centralised kitchens process these meals on a daily basis. Due to their standards of hygiene and technology, they have been featured in National Geographic Channel’s India’s Mega Kitchens as well.

The kitchens follow the six sigma methodology with a pre-scheduled menu and equipment that’s relevant to the specific region. For instance, North Indian kitchens have rice and dal cauldrons with roti making machines while South Indian kitchens have rice and sambar cauldrons.

Ensuring quality every day

The NGO’s kitchens ensure quality all through its centers in India right from the procurement of the raw material. The quality inspection, storage and preservation of raw materials follow the standards set by Food Safety Standards Act 2006 (FSSA); the rice is supplied by the Food Corporation of India (FCI); all the kitchens follow First in First Out and First Expiry First Out methods while using the raw materials for cooking.

All the vessels used during cooking are of stainless steel 304 food grade material. Well-trained cooks and supervisors ensure quality control during the cooking for these kitchens run by the top NGO that’s on a mission to feed the children.

Here are few photographs that give you a glimpse of our kitchens:

Big couldrons

Big Couldrons

Centralised Kitchens

Centralised Kitchens

Chopped Vegetables

Chopped Vegetables

Roti Cutting Machine

Roti Cutting Machine

The NGO also conducts training programmes for the cooking staff in various parts of India to make them aware and conscious that since they are feeding nutritious meals to the children, they need to be strict about personal hygiene. Akshaya Patra’s newest kitchen opened recently in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. The kitchen has the capacity to cook mid-day meals for 50,000 children. About 28,000 children from 57 government schools In Bhavnagar will be benefitted by Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals in the area. Now Akshaya Patra, as one of top NGOs in India, has 28 centralised kitchens and two de-centralised kitchens across India. The Akshaya Patra Foundation operates in 29 locations across 12 States in India feeding over 1.6 million children.