Hunger Action Month – A Campaign to Fight Hunger

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Fortunately, most of us do not have to think about where our meal will come from. Either it will be prepared at home or we can order a sumptuous meal at the click of a button. But, there are many who are not privileged even to get even a square meal per day. And, the number of such people are as high as 815 million, globally. Yes, hunger is an epidemic that has spread across almost all parts of the world. And, with 190.7 million people who suffer from hunger each day, India is home to 1/3rd of world’s hungry population. This is where food providing NGO role in India becomes extremely significant.

Hunger Action Month

Hunger action month

The month of September is observed as a Hunger Action Month across many countries. The origin of it dates back to 2008 when Feeding America, a United States-based non-profit hunger relief organisation, felt the need of a nationwide participation to deal with the hunger crisis. Since then, Hunger Action Month is observed annually with the aim to spread awareness and act to end hunger. This month-long campaign is a platform for the entire community to work together and ensure access to food for needy people. 

And, the best part is, hunger is a solvable problem!

How hunger affects sustainable development

Food is the basic need for survival for any living being. It provides the required energy to do all activities – physical and cognitive. When the stomach is empty, the only thought that clouds the head and heart is, food! In general, hunger leads to low immunity, deprived health, malnourishment, and delayed growth and development.

Hence, as an intervention several NGOs have taken up food as the core cause of their service, and The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO for children in India is one among them. Akshaya Patra has been in the service of providing nutritious meals to children since 2000. It implements the Mid-Day Meal Scheme across 12 states of the country and strives to eliminate classroom hunger to support education. Akshaya Patra’s cause is in sync with two Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations i.e. Zero Hunger and Quality Education. Classroom hunger leads to:

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Low levels of learning
  • Low academic performance
  • Lack of interest in school activities

Inferencing from the above-mentioned, it becomes evident that hunger poses as a major hurdle in sustainable development and progress of a country and the global community as a whole.

How can Hunger Action Month aid in improving Global Hunger Index

Global Hunger Index is a multidimensional statistical tool to measure the hunger status of countries across the world. The scores on this scale indicates the progress and failures in the fight against hunger globally. Remaining specific to India,

India ranks 100 among 119 countries in Global Hunger Index 2017. It has been categorised under the ‘serious’ range.

But, Hunger Action Month gives an opportunity to improve the hunger scores at a global level and at a national level. As a food-based NGO for children, Akshaya Patra campaigns for Hunger Action Month annually and urges supporters to generously participate in the campaign with the sole intention of creating a sustainable solution for hunger. When children are well-nourished and well-educated, they will grow up to be healthy, skilled, and resourceful citizens. Such citizens not only add prosperity to the family but also to the entire nation. Thus, there is a direct correlation between number of resourceful citizens and hunger index.

Conclusion

As a wrap, it is important to note that hunger is the number one cause of death in the world. This crisis can be dealt effectively only when the entire community actively gets involved to fight against the epidemic called hunger. 

This September, donate to end hunger. Your donation will enable Akshaya Patra to feed more children thereby increasing its present reach of 1.76 million children. You have the power to end hunger, use it by supporting school meals of children.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” – Mother Teresa.

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.

Eliminating Hunger is a Crucial Step for India

The Global Hunger Index (a tool designed to measure global hunger) released by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that India ranks 97 out of 118 countries – ‘Serious’ hunger. As many as 43 countries are under the ‘Serious’ category whereas 45 countries are low. For India to tackle the hunger problem by feeding the hungry, the current policies have schemes have to be more stringent and accessible to people in need.

While the government and many NGOs are working towards feeding the children with wholesome meals, there is a need for us to act together as a society. Given the number of children who require food in our country, Akshaya Patra, a children’s NGO based out of Bengaluru, is providing healthy meals to over 1.6 million school children in 11 states in India. The Foundation is also focusing on reaching out to 5 million children by 2020.

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Why should we focus on children’s food demands?

Children are the future. Considering the magnitude of hunger problem in India, many NGOs are setting up initiatives to eliminate hunger especially among children – they are stunted, poorly nourished and do not receive one square meal a day. Going by the GHI score, 38.7% of children below five years are stunted – it means that the weight is not appropriate for their height (they are too thin). In 1992, this score was 61.9. That’s a difference of 23.2% in the last 24 years.

With an initiative like ‘Food for Education,’ by Akshaya Patra, the advantages are doubled to make hunger a history – the child is educated and also, he or she is completely nourished with nutritious meals.

Inclusive development and addressing issues using this method is more important for India. That is, simultaneously focus on development of education, citizens’ rights, health care, housing facilities, job opportunities and so on. However, when one issue is looked down as least important, it multiples and becomes far more challenging.

Here’s what you can do to eliminate hunger in India

It has been proved over and again that India has sufficient resources to eliminate hunger. However, the existing challenges are a drawback. Distribution of food among families with low-income, building infrastructure to reach certain towns and villages, educating the farmers, ensuring fair-trade are some of the challenges.

Akshaya Patra’s school lunch programme benefits children from many small towns and villages to consume a square meal on every school day. Today, the organisation reaches out to 13,210 schools to feed the children. Keeping hygiene and quality in mind, mid-day meals are freshly prepared and are delivered to schools during lunch time.

You can get involved in this cause too! Contribute to the cause by sponsoring a child’s mid-day meals for an entire year. Also, you can learn how Akshaya Patra operates its Mid-Day Meal Programme by visiting our blog.