The Akshaya Patra Foundation supports the Government of India’s efforts to achieve the objectives of the national school feeding programme (SFP), the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme. As the implementing agency of the school feeding programme, Akshaya Patra strives to uphold children’s Right to Education (RTE) and Right to Food (RTF). These efforts translate into a well-defined school ecosystem, thus contributing to food security and the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN.
Since 2000, Akshaya Patra has been concerting all its efforts towards providing fresh and nutritious meals to children every single school day. The Foundation is continuously leveraging technology to expand its reach. The state-of-the-art kitchens have become a subject of study and have attracted curious visitors from around the world. The partnership with the Government of India and various State Governments, and the persistent support from corporates, individual donors and well-wishers, have helped the organisation grow from serving just 1,500 children in 5 schools in 2000 to serving 1.8 million children today.
Conscious of its responsibility towards society, the Foundation strived to use the resources across the country to provide food and nutrition security to vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the continued support of all its stakeholders — the Central Government, State Governments, UT Administrations, civic bodies, corporate partners, individual donors, volunteers and well-wishers, the Foundation has served over 14.5 crore meals to vulnerable populations across 19 states and one union territory.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented crisis. Among other things, it has widened the nutritional gap, leaving millions of people across the world without food. With the belief that food assistance has a crucial role to play in humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of disasters, Akshaya Patra has time and again endeavoured to utilise its kitchen infrastructure and resources to undertake relief feeding in various parts of the country, right from Gujarat to Assam and Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu.
Over 7 crore cooked meals were served to daily-wage workers, migrant labourers, rough sleepers, etc., as of 30 June 2021. These meals were cooked at the Foundation’s kitchens and transported to the relief feeding centres to be served to those in need. As many people were unable to source groceries, essential groceries boxes were distributed as a need-based solution. The contents of these boxes were based on the local palate of the region, with each kit having a dry ration sufficient to cook 42 or 28 meals. More than 12 lakhs such boxes, amounting to over 5 crore meal servings, were distributed from Akshaya Patra kitchens and makeshift packaging centres in various locations. In addition, over 1.21 lakh snacks kits were also distributed to migrants at railway stations to help them on their journey back home.
Furthermore, reiterating its commitment towards the children, Akshaya Patra designed Happiness Kits for its MDM beneficiaries. With school closures depriving children of education and mid-day meals, the Foundation strived to take learning and food to their doorstep by providing them kits containing dry ration, toothbrush, and toothpaste, sanitary pack for girls, activity workbooks in regional language and stationery. Over 12 lakh Happiness Kits, amounting to over 2.4 crore meal servings, have been distributed across the country.
The Foundation also took elaborate measures to ensure the overall safety of its staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Besides the standard safety practices, additional safety protocols were put in place considering the seriousness of the situation. Staff and volunteers were screened at the entrance with a handheld infrared thermometer. Social distancing norms and the use of a hand sanitiser was mandated. Everyone was asked to use proper respiratory masks not just at the premises, but also during their commute.
Every fall brings with it the wisdom to rise again. This pandemic was a descent of catastrophic proportions for the entire world and we have managed to pick ourselves up with grace, having learned immensely on what can be done to prevent the eventual fallout resulting from such a disruptive force.
The Foundation will continue to further its efforts to revamp existing mid-day meals and public feeding endeavours in its attempt to ensure the nutrition security of children and communities. It has become abundantly clear that this measure is necessary, particularly for future generations.