The Akshaya Patra Foundation was visited by a very distinguished guest on 16 July, 2014! Former US President Bill Clinton, accompanied by Gururaj Deshpande, Abhay Jain and 25 delegates, stopped by the Akshaya Patra kitchen at Jaipur during his visit to India.
The kitchen is a part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment between the Deshpande Foundation, Ravindra Chamaria and the Government of India made in 2008, to provide $7 million dollars toward scaling up the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal programme.
At the kitchen Mr Clinton was taken through the operations process and shown how the kitchen produces 250,000 rotis (Indian flat bread), 6 tonnes of dal (lentils) and 5 tonnes of rice on every school day, in just three hours!
Clinton with his delegation spent an hour touring the kitchen and then visited the nearby Government Praveshika Sanskrit Vidhyalaya (Government Secondary Sanskrit School) at Sanganer where he received a warm welcome by the students. He helped serve the mid-day meal to the children, and spent some time interacting with them.
Impressed with the work undertaken by the organisation Clinton said, “I want to thank all of the students and teachers for the warm welcome. Cooking and distribution of food is a commendable effort and this is a remarkable partnership between the government, private sector business community and non-government organisation. Such a huge quantity of food prepared and served in efficient, healthy and sanitary manner is unbelievable.”
Clinton saw firsthand the impact of what good nutrition can do for the cognitive development of children. He and his delegates were amazed to see two tenth standard students from the school solving a complex mathematical calculation using the Nikhilam method of Vedic Maths, completing it even before even Deshpande could finish on his calculator. So impressed was he with their skill that Clinton asked Akshaya Patra to contact his Foundation for any assistance needed with their education in the future.
Explaining why the mid-day meal programme is so important to him, Clinton says, “I think that one of the great challenges of the 21st century everywhere, is to prove that we can create an inclusive democracy. And that’s not just political inclusion but economic and social inclusion. The programme we visited today is one that has been a big part of my Clinton Global Initiative. We try to raise more and more money for it. I think these sort of feeding programmes are very often overlooked by the political system and yet they have the greatest potential to do good. If I can help galvanize action [toward the cause] it actually saves lives and creates a whole different set of futures for these children.”
The Clinton Foundation under the CGI helps raise awareness and funding for Akshaya Patra from corporates and other agencies to help the organisation run the mid-day meal programme. “This is the finest commitment made by the Clinton Foundation in its 10 years of existence. It is wonderful,” said Clinton, eager for more organisations to support the programme.
Clinton also thanked Caterpillar Foundation for their donation of $2 million toward Akshaya Patra that will be used to feed another 100,000 children in Lucknow.
Clinton’s visit to The Akshaya Patra Foundation marks a proud moment in history for the organisation and we look forward to welcoming him back to India soon. In the meantime we wish the Clinton Global Initiative all the very best in their endeavours for the future.
Information sourced from: The Clinton Foundation, The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Hindu, and NDTV.