Bengaluru-headquartered Akshaya Patra Foundation is striving to eliminate classroom hunger by implementing the mid-day meal scheme in the Government schools and Government-aided schools. Alongside, Akshaya Patra also aims at countering malnutrition and supporting the right to education of socio-economically disadvantaged children.
Since 2000, Akshaya Patra has been concerting all its efforts towards providing fresh and nutritious meals to children on every single school day continuously leveraging technology to multiply reach. The state-of-the-art kitchens have become a subject of study and have attracted curious visitors from around the world.
Today, Akshaya Patra has 60 kitchens spread across 14 states and two Union Territories, a result of the successful partnership with the Government of India, various state governments and generous supporters. Akshaya Patra reaches out to 18,00,907 children, providing them with freshly cooked meal on all school days.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the implementing partner of the Government of India’s flagship School Feeding Programme (SFP), the MidDay Meal (MDM) Scheme. The Foundation reaches out to over 1.8 million children of more than 20,000 schools every school day with freshly cooked, nutritious and tasty school lunch, thus supporting their health and education.
Akshaya Patra’s scalability can be attributed to the extensive network of structured kitchen units it has built across the country over the years. These units enable large-scale feeding with focus on safe handling, preparation and delivery of the food. Their scale and operational efficiency help the Foundation play a crucial role in maximising the impact of the programme and contributing to the UN SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 4 (Quality Education) directly.
Besides the MDM Scheme, Akshaya Patra also implements the Government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) feeding programme aimed at providing nutritional support to children and women in various locations.
Food assistance initiatives
Akshaya Patra has always endeavoured to utilise its kitchen infrastructure to undertake emergency food assistance in the event of natural disasters to provide people food and nutrition support and ensure their health. Mindful of the role of food assistance in humanitarian efforts, the Foundation has strived to support the Government’s relief work in various parts of the country.
Over the years, Akshaya Patra has enhanced its execution capabilities for humanitarian efforts during disasters through need-based approaches. These include the provision of freshly cooked food, utilising its mobile kitchen or setting up a temporary kitchen and the distribution of food relief kits.
Akshaya Patra’s feeding endeavours are in alignment with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 that stresses on food and nutritional security “by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.” As a practice, the Foundation adheres to the strictest norms of financial transparency and accountability in all its endeavours, including food assistance initiatives, and submits regular reports to the Government and donors.
Assistance during pandemic
During the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Akshaya Patra pivoted to Food for Relief in accordance with the need of the hour. With the implementation of school closures to curb the outbreak, the Foundation mobilised its resources and leveraged partnerships for food assistance to support the Government’s relief efforts to help the vulnerable populations.
Akshaya Patra’s direct role in service delivery helped ensure that food reached the most vulnerable and underserved sections of society in these times of adversity. The Foundation worked with various state governments, UT administrations and civic bodies. It coordinated with the local administration to identify areas that needed urgent care to provide relief to the affected people. It used its kitchen networks to prepare fresh, safe and hygienic cooked meals and delivered them to the food relief centres, hospitals and quarantine centres, slums, crematoriums and railway stations, etc.
As a need-based solution, it also distributed different variants of grocery kits—each designed keeping in mind the needs of a specific group. Happiness Kits, for instance, were for the beneficiaries of the MDM Programme while Shakti Kits focused on the nutritional needs of pregnant women.
Incentivised vaccination drives
Akshaya Patra conducted incentivised vaccination drives in various locations to help overcome vaccine hesitancy resulting from misconceptions and resultant fear. In September 2021, it started a shelter feeding initiative through its three centralised kitchens in Delhi. As part of this, the Foundation worked with the Government of NCT of Delhi to serve lunch and dinner in shelters run by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) in collaboration with various NGOs. The beneficiaries of this initiative were the homeless people in Delhi, which included families, old aged persons, widows/single women, individuals who are battling addiction, individuals needing medical care, etc.
Akshaya Patra has always strived to be a dynamic organisation prepared to adapt to changes. It demonstrated this dynamism by efficiently undertaking food assistance in multiple locations across the country during the Covid-19 outbreak. Its highly trained and dedicated workforce, organised infrastructure and a well-established procurement network to mobilise raw material added to its efficiency during disaster situations, enabling it to swiftly reach out to people in distress.
Linkages with UN SDGs
Akshaya Patra’s food assistance endeavours to provide food and nutrition security to vulnerable populations complement the Government’s disaster management efforts and further the nation’s pursuit of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Akshaya Patra is embodiment of a pious hope to see the world rid itself of hunger and malnutrition. The seed came from Srila Prabhupada the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement. The seed bore fruit thru Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa in Bangalore in 2000. Now after over two decades of service with the blessings of Almighty is sharing this fruit throughout India and is able to bring spotlight on importance of eradicating hunger and malnutrition especially among children.
Its efforts to ensure local level food and nutrition access during a disaster are in direct alignment with SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being). At the same time, in ensuring that everyone affected by the pandemic is receiving the right nutrition support, the Foundation contributes to SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).
Its focus on infrastructure and technology to maximise the gains of various feeding endeavours is helpful in the context of SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). At the same time, the emphasis on quality and transparency ensures that the supply chains are ethical, quality-oriented, fair and efficient in alignment with SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).
Similarly, in using its network of donors and supporters to raise additional monetary support for Government programmes, thus contributing towards maximising their reach and impact, the Foundation contributes to SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development)
THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA
Looking out of a window, one day in Mayapur, a village near Kolkata, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada saw a group of children fighting with stray dogs over scraps of food. From this simple, yet heart-breaking incident was born a determination that no child within a radius of ten miles from our centre should go hungry.
His inspiring resolve sowed the seeds of The Akshaya Patra Foundation. With the vision: ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger,’ Akshaya Patra started the Mid-Day Meal Programme in June 2000 by serving mid-day meals to 1,500 children across five Government schools in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
In partnership with the Government of India and various state governments, as well as philanthropic donors; the organisation is running the world’s largest Mid-Day Meal Programme. Built on a Public-Private Partnership model, Akshaya Patra combines good management, innovative technology, and smart engineering to deliver nutritious and hygienic school lunch on every school day.
Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa
“I remember when Akshaya Patra was a fledgling initiative that provided wholesome, nutritious and freshly cooked food to 1,500 students from five schools in Bengaluru. We were motivated by the cause and vision of ensuring that no child must forgo education because of hunger. Now, 21 years and millions of beneficiaries later, the core of our Foundation remains unshaken—our dedication to unlimited food for education is as strong as it ever was. If at all, it has strengthened over the last year and a half as we have tried to reach out to our beneficiaries across the country with nutritious food in these times of adversity. If we have been able to serve over 24.4 crore meals to those in need since March 2020, it is because of the collective efforts of all our stakeholders.”
He further added, “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, and all the State Governments and UT Administrations for giving us the opportunity to serve the children. We are also immensely grateful to our corporate partners, individual donors, and volunteers for their continued support to all our endeavours, from the MDM Programme to relief feeding initiatives.
Awards and Recognitions
Following is the list of awards and recognitions received by the Akshaya Patra Foundation for its food assistance efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic:
- Mahatma Award 2021 for the COVID-19 Humanitarian Efforts category
- India Today-RPG Happiness Award in the ‘NGO that brought the Most Happiness’ category
- The CSR Times Award in the COVID category at the 8th National CSR E-summit
- India CSR NGO Leadership Award for its COVID feeding relief to feed those vulnerable to hunger.
- Award of Excellence at The CSR Universe COVID Response Impact Awards 2021 in the Food & Nutrition category for massive food assistance programme for distressed families and poor and migrant labourers during the pandemic.
- Certificate of appreciation from the Government of Uttarakhand in recognition of providing food relief services to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
- The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) COVID Crusaders Award 2020 for its philanthropic work done during the testing times of the pandemic Silver Award for its CSR COVID Relief Project (NGOs) at the 5th CSR Health Impact Awards 2021: COVID Edition