Akshaya Patra Initiative

Akshaya Patra Initiative

Feeding and Social Initiatives in Akshaya Patra

midday meals

Long-term hunger is the one problem that is the root cause of many other concerns in India.

Hunger pushes children to work for an additional income at the age where they must be in school playing, learning and exploring their potential. Malnutrition in nursing and expecting mothers affects their strength during and after childbirth. It also strips infants of essential nutrients during the crucial years of their growth and development.

When malnourishment hits growing children, it invites several chronic and fatal diseases. Not only that, but it also hinders the efficient growth of their vital organs that may cripple them for their entire lives! When school-going children face undernourishment, they lack the physical and mental strength to learn, wasting their time and efforts in school resulting in low performance and confidence levels.

Intervention of NGOs
Keeping in mind these frequently-occurring circumstances in India, many not-for-profit entities surfaced to help people in distress and support their development.

One such NGO in India is The Akshaya Patra Foundation which works in the service of children since the last 21 years to nourish them and support their education. But recognizing a host of other social issues in India, we began expanding our services to address hardships that have lived amongst us for centuries and affected the pace of our development as a nation.

Below are the social initiatives that we are working on currently.

Mid-Day Meal Programme

PM Poshan Abhiyan
The PM Poshan Abhiyan (formerly known as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme) was mandated in India in 2001 to feed underprivileged school children in Government and Government-aided schools.

Given the size of India and its population, during the scheme’s infancy, implementation of the became the biggest problem. Therefore, multiple NGOs pooled in efforts to see through the its execution throughout the country.

We, at Akshaya Patra, are an NGO in India, distributing meals in low-income schools since 2000. Therefore, partnership with the Government became a win-win for both parties where collaborated efforts proved beneficial for disadvantaged families in two ways:

• It encouraged parents to send their children to school as they served meals free of cost. As a result, it improved the enrollment and attendance rates in schools. Also, more girls began attending schools
• The programme nourished growing children, helped them focus better at school and strengthened their immunity to diseases. As a result, they scored better both in academics and extra-curricular activities, thus proving a promising future for the family and nation on the whole

Today, we can proudly say that many of our beneficiaries are earning well at recognised organisations and some have become donors themselves to carry forward the noble tradition of giving.


Anganwadi Feeding Programme
Anganwadi Centres are centres for mother and child care in India. They are a part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme—one of the centrally sponsored flagship programmes for children and nursing mothers.

The concept revolves around the fact that stimulation during the first six years of life is critical for a healthy development. Therefore, malnutrition is best-addressed in the formative years of a child’s life. This includes breastfeeding and providing small doses of cooked food during their early childhood.

To ensure these requirements are efficiently met, we started the Anganwadi Feeding Programme that supported the Government’s initiative to nourish infants from the time they are in their mother’s womb. It also ensures nourishment for would-be and lactating mothers.

Feeding Homeless Mothers
Homeless mothers (young or old) from marginalized communities often struggle to make ends meet due to a lack of support from their families. They barely manage one meal a day, leave alone saving for their future. Hence, our initiative for these helpless and homeless mothers feeds and provides them with essential nutrients that will help them rise to the challenges of life.

Disaster Relief Activities
Natural calamities often bring unexpected, massive and lasting damage to human lives and property. Thus, we proactively responded to unfortunate disaster victims during floods, cyclones, earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic with cooked meals and grocery kits.

Till now, we have supported lakhs of people in regions of Assam, Odisha, Kerala, North Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Nepal. Currently, we are helping flood victims of Assam and Andhra Pradesh. We have served cooked meals and packed meals and continue to distribute flood relief grocery kits to help in their survival.

The relief activities are still on and you can donate to feed the needy flood victims through online donations.

Scholarship Programme
The Scholarship Programme at Akshaya Patra is a unique initiative as it aims to benefit children beyond meal distribution. It was started to support the education of children and prevent school dropouts. The programme helps our beneficiaries to continue their studies while motivating them to consider pursuing their higher studies. Currently, we run two categories of scholarship programmes:

Alumni Scholarships – Our beneficiaries who have graduated standard X receive this scholarship to pursue higher studies.
Akshaya Patra Beneficiary Scholarships – Our beneficiaries studying in standards IX and X receive this scholarship.

Beyond the Meals
Today, every field in this world is progressing with full-speed; thanks to the new-age digital equipment and the internet. But the digital divide in developing countries like India became evident during the pandemic where millions of children had to discontinue schooling due to a lack of access to digital aids. Additionally, it also reversed the benefits of years’ worth of their efforts towards learning and education.

Digital education is also crucial when preparing for competitive examinations. Children from challenging backgrounds can trade their academic brilliance through these exams for a better financial and social standing.

Thus, recognising the importance of digital aids in learning, we started the Beyond Meals – Digital Education Programme to make digital education accessible to underprivileged. This flagship initiative engages in the Government’s education system to bring out excellent learning outcomes while supporting an enjoyable schooling experience.

The programme also contributes to the Government of India’s s vision of ‘Digital India’ and supports the endeavours of low-income students in Government schools.

Final Thoughts
Today, contributing to the needs of marginalized sections in India is as easy as browsing the internet on your phone. Now, anyone from around the world can donate to feed the needy beneficiaries of our initiatives through an organized and simple online process.

With the click of a button, any amount from a kind donor like you can flip the socio-economic conditions of the lesser privileged and also contribute towards building a self-reliant India.

Making a difference is not a lengthy process anymore but the only ask is a noble thought.


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Akshaya Patra Initiative

Stepping up to Feed the Homeless-Night Shelter Feeding Initiative in Delhi

delhi shelter feeding

एक बसर बुखार चड़ा होगा तो फिर भी सो जाएंगे पर भुखे पेट तो चौबीस घंटे नींद नहीं आएगी। (“If we have fever, we will still sleep. On a hungry stomach though, sleep will evade us for 24 hours.”) 65-year-old Omkar—a dweller of the Dandi Park rain basera (night shelter)—talks about the importance of food. Omkar is one of the thousands of beneficiaries of The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s night shelter feeding in Delhi.

Akshaya Patra has always strived to utilise the spare capacities of its kitchens to serve the community—be it food relief as a part of humanitarian efforts during emergencies, feeding of widow mothers in Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh) or COVID-19 food assistance across the country since March 2020. In the same vein, the Foundation is now working with the Government of NCT of Delhi to serve cooked meals to homeless people taking refuge in 209 night shelters run by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB).

Across Delhi, thousands of individuals seek refuge in DUSIB’s night shelters. These dwellings function year-round to provide basic facilities, including a bed and blanket, basic medical care and food, to the homeless. Every individual taking refuge in these facilities has his or her own reason. While the homeless seek protection from the harsh winter, migrant labourers consider it free accommodation which helps them save a portion of their meagre earnings to send it to their families back home.

Akshaya Patra operates four kitchens in Delhi in its capacity as the implementing partner of the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Programme. It is currently using three of these kitchens (i.e., Gole Market, Badli and Jahangirpuri) to undertake the feeding initiative. It is serving nearly 12,000 meals to the homeless in night shelters every day. These include aged persons, daily-wage labourers, widows and single women, individuals battling addiction and individuals needing medical care, among others.

Like Omkar, many people aged 60 and above seek refuge in these shelters with nowhere to go due to personal reasons. Their problems are compounded by the fact that they can’t find any work due to their age. While shelter homes put a roof over their head, Akshaya Patra’s feeding initiative helps address hunger by providing them lunch and dinner. “Now we have a roof on our head and blankets. We get food in the afternoon and evening which is of immense help so much so that if it doesn’t come, we will have to go to sleep on a glass of water,” Indu and Dileep Mandal, an elderly couple living in a family shelter, express.

Delhi is one of the preferred destinations for people from various parts of the country who seek a better life for themselves and their families back home. Many of these people engage in daily-wage work, such as painting/whitewashing, construction site labour, pulling cycle-rickshaw, etc. They step out to work during the daytime and return in the evening, with the free shelter and food helping them a lot financially. “We earn a meagre sum after working the whole day,” Suresh Ram, a cycle-rickshaw puller who has come to Delhi from Odisha, states. “If we spend money on food at a hotel, it eats into our savings. Then we are left with hardly any money to send home. The free food helps us save money for our family.”

“Due to COVID and cold weather, people are not stepping out. That means there is less work for us,” Raju—another cycle rickshaw puller—voices their problem. “Luckily, we have a place to sleep and good food to eat. With the food taken care of, I can save enough money to take care of my family,” he further adds.

While they were earning barely enough to pay the rent before the pandemic, their situation has now worsened and many of them have been left with no option but to move into these night shelters. Sanju, a painter by profession, has temporarily sought shelter in one of the rain baseras with his family. He says, “It is the circumstances that have brought us here. We would have preferred to work hard and live in our own house, but that is not possible. For people like me, there is no work due to COVID.” Sanju is waiting for the day things will return to normal. Until then, this food and shelter are the only sources of comfort for them.

The Government is doing as much as it can to ensure that people are not left out on the streets in cold. Every day, volunteers and police patrol the streets and ask those living on the streets to move into night shelters. Padmini and her family were making a living by selling toys on traffic lights. With the winter becoming intense, the cops asked them to move into night shelters for their own safety. “When they asked to move we shifted from our makeshift structure in the vicinity of traffic lights to this temporary shelters. It is better because now we are protected from cold and we also get free food at this shelter facility,” she says.

Many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. With no money to pay the rent, many of them were forced to return home. As things slowly return to normal, they are coming back. Vineet Kumar Pandey, a native of Uttar Pradesh, used to work as a security guard in Delhi before he lost his job and returned home during the pandemic. He is back in Delhi now. His former employer got in touch with him for an opportunity. Vineet tells us, “He [employer] assured me that he will sort things out, but it will take a couple of days. I needed a place to stay until then. So I went to Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. Someone there told me about this shelter facility and I moved here. It is a nice facility where we get all the basics, including food.” Circumstances have also prompted many people to send their families back to their hometown and find temporary refuge in these shelters.

Everyone is aware of the importance of food and shelter. Meena, a resident of a shelter for women in Dwarka, puts it aptly. “Even if we are working somewhere, we need two things: proper sleep and good food. We no doubt need money because there are other expenses. However, if we can sleep properly at night and have good food to eat, then we can be content and lead our life. The good thing about this place [rain basera] is that we get both these things.”

The Government of Delhi is doing a remarkable job in helping homeless people. Akshaya Patra’s strives to aid the Government’s efforts through the night shelter feeding initiative. For the thousands of people taking refuge in these shelters in the harsh winter in Delhi, two things provide immense comfort – a warm bed and blanket and the assurance of a hot meal.

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