Discussion Room

Discussion RoomFood and Education

Literacy – A Tool to Word the Roadmap for Development


International Literacy Day, observed on September 8 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), commemorates its 50-year anniversary in 2016. This day recognises the importance of literacy and promotes it through engagement on national and international levels. It is being celebrated under the banner ‘Reading the Past, Writing the Future’ this year.

According to the 2011 census, India’s literacy rate was 74.04% (82 .14% among males and 65.46% among females). The nation has made strides in literacy rate, with active efforts from the Government and organisations like The Akshaya Patra Foundation through its initiatives like food for education, but there is still a long way to go. The cause of literacy must certainly be on the top of the agenda for social improvement, as high rates of literacy benefit the individual and society in numerous ways. Here are some of them:

Brighter career prospects
Being able to read and write enhances the promise of a brighter future and financial security. Literacy fuels the pursuit of education, which is a prerequisite if one has to make a mark in society and bring about a revolution.

Boosts confidence and creates better self-image 
The ability to read and write instills confidence in people. The very act of being able to understand the written word and express oneself in writing is empowering, both socially and psychologically.

Increases social and political awareness  
Literacy is one of the key cornerstones of a society that is conscious of its strengths and limitations and mindful of important happenings in the nation and the world. This enhances the public sense of social responsibility, powered by greater awareness.

Helps in discovering the joy of books, new worlds and new ideas 
Perhaps the most magical part about being able to read and write is the pleasure of being able to become lost in books. Discovering new worlds, ideas, stories and philosophies expands one’s worldview and makes them appreciate the staggering diversity of thought and culture in the world.

A keystone to nation-building and economic progress 
Literate, well-educated adults make it possible for a country to reach the summit of economic progress. This kind of development is inclusive, with equal growth opportunities for people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Literacy can also help combat gender inequality – a major concern that needs to be addressed throughout the world.

Let’s come together to educate the children of India. While this would help them in their personal growth, it will also take the country towards positive development. Donate for education in India today to support the cause.

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Discussion Room

6 Parenting skills can shape your child’s future

Helathy Children

Parents are said to be the first teacher children have. The responsibility of ensuring that the child is brought up in a healthy environment and gets the right education and nutrition lies on their shoulders. But what if the parent ensures that the child gets right education by sending them to school but a nutritious meal is something they can’t afford?

The Akshaya Patra Foundation aims to fill in the gaps with its school lunch programme, where the meals are calibrated for providing the right nutrition at the age when their body is growing. This will ensure that their body remains healthy when they grow to adulthood.

Our kitchen staff – which contains both men and women – cook food with utmost love and care to ensure that its tastes delicious and children look forward to it every day. Utmost hygiene is maintained to ensure that the food remains fresh and healthy till the time it reaches children, whose school is sometimes located 100 km away from the kitchen.

While we serve unlimited meals to over 1.6 million children every school day, the parents are left with another task to direct their energies in making sure that they are lead towards positive development. For this, parenting skills play an important role. While there are multiple ways to bring up children, some basic parenting skills go a long way in ensuring their bright future.


What are the tips you apply to ensure your children become a responsible individual? Comment below

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Discussion Room

How to make a difference with a CSR activity

Support Akshaya Patra

Just as the children get back to school to start their new academic year, the next perk they score for being a regular at school is a nutritious lunch, which in turn leads to better health. Akshaya Patra has been working towards it through Mid-Day Meal Programme which is benefitting over 1.6 million children every day. The support offered by various corporate companies through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative has helped Akshaya Patra reach the milestone of serving 2 billion meals in 2016.

As Corporate Social Responsibility becomes a means to engage with the society, corporates can also adopt various practices to ensure that they leave a long-lasting impact on the society. It can be divided in three segments:

Community Service

Raising awareness about a social cause can contribute quite a bit towards developing the society. Bringing awareness about a seasonal disease or fighting against stigma and discrimination of any kind, all these require a campaign which can reach the minds of people and lead to change in their actions. This way a developed society can be built.

A recent example is of NetApp, a data management and cloud storage solutions company, where they launched their Global Volunteer Programme. Called Food For All, the programme was conceptualised after realising the number of people who go hungry every single day. The company encouraged people to pledge at least eight hours towards social service.

They even donated insulated vessels along with other items to facilitate operations at Akshaya Patra. To continue serving the children, about 40 volunteers from NetApp visit Akshaya Patra every month between 9:30 am to 3 pm. They contribute towards pre-processing activities ranging from washing and cleaning cauldrons, vessels and vehicles to segregating pulses, de-husking coconut.

Helping NGOs reach their goal

While community service takes a company closer to the beneficiaries, supporting the NGO with required equipment can be another way towards making a social change. The equipment can be anything, from cooking utensils to vans.

Many corporates who partner with Akshaya Patra provide cooking equipment like cauldrons, equipment for storing the food like Hot Insulated Vessels to keep food hot for 8-10 hours, vans which again have insulators and ensure that the food reaches schools without spilling.

SBI Donates Vessels

In April 2017, State Bank of India donated 1,250 hot insulated vessels to Akshaya Patra which would be distributed among kitchens in Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Nathdwara kitchens.

Another such example is of Snapdeal who supported Akshaya Patra by pledging daal for one million meals. They invited their customers to donate towards the campaign which was started in March. The campaign reached four times higher their set target and currently they have managed to provide daal for four million meals.

Uber also supported the campaign with messages reflected in their app-messages and cards. These motivated the riders to pledge their contribution towards the cause. Huawei came forward to make an equally matched contribution to Akshaya Patra.

Protecting environment

Environment literacy is just a part of the contribution you can make towards welfare of the society. Reusing the organic waste to produce biogas can be a great way of making the best use of kitchen waste.
We at Akshaya Patra have been adopting a similar practice at our kitchens across the country. As part of our Go Green initiative, the first biogas unit was set up at our Ballari kitchen. The plant processes 1,000 kg of kitchen waste per day that includes vegetable rejects, cooked food waste, replacing LPG. On an average this technology helps us save around three LPG cylinders per day.

A similar biogas plant has also been installed in our Vasanthapura kitchen in Bengaluru. This plant produces 1,400 kilograms of biogas monthly that is equal to 700 kilograms of LPG. Hence approximately Rs 38,500 is saved every month towards LPG purchase. Besides reducing cost towards purchasing LPG, it also helps in eco-friendly handling of food wastages approximately 20 metric tonne every month.
With the help of Tata Trust, similar units will be set up at our kitchens all over the country.

To become a corporate partner with Akshaya Patra, write to us at [email protected]

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Discussion Room

The domino effect: the unseen impact of child labour

world day against child labour

Can you imagine your life and successes without the education you received? Many children in India are robbed of the opportunities for advancement that a good education brings because they are pushed into labour for financial sustenance. On June 12, World Day Against Child Labour, an initiative of the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), is observed around the world, to bring attention to the issue of child labour and the efforts and action needed to eliminate it.

According to the Census of India 2011 there are 43.53 lakh children between the age group of 5-14 years employed in various occupations. Although this figure has reduced drastically compared to the results of the Census of India 2001 which calculated 1.26 crore working children from the same age group, India still has a long way to go to become child-labour free.

Child labour is most prevalent in third world countries where poverty is rampant. Because parents lack the skills and opportunities to provide adequately for their families, children have to take up employment to help the household make ends meet. In an alternative form of child labour that is often ignored, children also frequently stay at home to look after their siblings and manage household chores, freeing their parents to work the whole day. This means that they have to drop out of school (or never enroll in the first place) to take their place as earning members of the family.

Watch Akshaya Patra’s inspiring video against child labour – The Possibilities – featuring the song Naan Yen, with music by none other than the maestro – AR Rahman

Child labour has consequences that are hard to imagine. Like a domino it has the power to tumble national progress, innovation, social security and many other factors if left unaddressed.

  • Perpetuates the cycle of poverty – Because children don’t have the opportunity to study and attend classes they are denied the opportunity to hone their skills for the future. This keeps them in a position of economic disadvantage, and the cycle of poverty and child labour is passed on to future generations.
  • Negative impact on the nation – Child labour has effects that reach far beyond the individual, family or community. It has a national impact that affects the growth and prosperity of the country as a whole. Child labour affects the country across different parameters:
    1. Forced to give up on their education in favour of employment, thousands of children grow up to be disadvantaged, unskilled members of the work force. This loss of income in turn lowers the country’s economic growth each year.
    2. Poor access to proper education causes the population to grow up unaware of their basic democratic rights and duties. Without the citizens playing an active role in their nation’s progress and governing policies, the country cannot flourish.
    3. Child labour forces children to work in hazardous and traumatic conditions with poor hygiene that affects their productivity in the future, negatively affecting the nation’s long term health.
    4. Due to the easy availability of inexpensive child labour, manufacturers are loathe to upgrade production processes and invest in fixed capital. This stunts the nation’s technological advancement and reduces efficiency of production to a large extent.
    5. Poor access to education due to child labour serves to also enhance the huge inequality of wages between skilled and unskilled labour. This chasm causes the rich to get richer, while the poor spiral deeper into poverty.

Child labour is a social evil that affects each of us on some level. One certain way of fighting against it – and winning – is to provide access to affordable education.

By serving the daily school lunch, Akshaya Patra helps combat child labour by providing food for education to children in need. This programme brings children out of the workshops and into the classroom by relieving them of the burden of working for their daily meal. Join us in doing this and more in our fight to end classroom hunger. Donate to Akshaya Patra today!

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Discussion Room

Skill development in India: A dire need


Skill is the ability to do something well. And when it comes to skill development in India, a lot of initiatives have been happening in the past two years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Skill India programme in May 2015 with an aim of training 40 crore people in India in various skills by the year 2022.

Why skill development in India is crucial?

Skill development today is especially important for students because Indian students have often been found to be unemployable by multi-national companies. While many leave the country for greener pastures, many young people in India find themselves under-qualified for jobs. Why do we need skill training? How does it help the individual in the future?

Advantages of Skill India

The Skill India initiative aims at reversing the brain drain and making the youth of India skilful and self-dependent. Among the various advantages of Skill India are: better productivity, development of skills at school level, confidence building among youth, involvement of rural and remote areas, etc.

The skill development programme especially excites NGOs such as Akshaya Patra that are actively involved in the field of education by serving wholesome lunch in Indian schools. As is outlined in a blog here, the organisation is committed to participating in any initiative that involves skill development for students and youth.

The organisation aims at bringing dropped-out children back to school by motivating them through mid-day meals. These are good quality nutritious meals that encourage children to attend school every day. That way, students are able to attain basic education that’s vital for developing their skills in future.

In addition, Akshaya Patra also works to enhance the skills of the entire workforce that’s involved in the serving of mid-day meals. In association with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the organisation conducts training programme for cooks and helpers of the Mid-Day Meal Programme. Similarly, the government is partnering with several other organisations as part of the skill development programme so the youth in India feels confident to choose their professions and jobs. This time, the focus is shifted from traditional professions and directed towards vocational training and interest-based programmes in rural and remote areas of the country.

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Discussion Room

Children, the unseen victims of climate change!

Disaster Banner

Natural disasters affect millions every year and their impact is cataclysmic. These calamities wreak havoc, forcing people to abandon their homes. Lives are lost and large-scale evacuations disrupt accessibility to basic hygiene, education, health care and most importantly food supplies.

In the past decades, almost every nation has been impacted by the effects of natural calamities. Hence in 2001, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where over 2,000 scientists from 100 countries participated; concluded that it is the humans who are playing the predominant role in causing these alarming changes in climate.

Nepal post 2015 earthquake

COP 21, 2015 reiterates the same notion. This seminal conference held in Paris, came together with the aim to improve the present scenario of global climate change. Delegates negotiated to reach a legally binding climate change agreement for all the nations of the world. This new universal climate change agreement expects to keep the ‘increase in global temperature below 2 degree Celsius’. This objective was earlier recognized in COP15, hosted in 2009 in Copenhagen but no all abiding agreement was reached upon.

Every nation is aware that with the current rate at which atmospheric warming and carbon dioxide accumulation is happening; things are going to get worse without intervention. Alpine and Polar ice is melting, the oceans are heating up, circumpolar winds are gearing pace and moreover the stratosphere is heating up causing the ‘ozone shield’ to grow thinner. Given the present rate of carbon dioxide buildup, it is evident that the world is entering uncharted seas.

These natural calamities triggered by anthropogenic actions have widespread effects on the entire population especially the children. Displaced populations, health risks, food security, emotional aftershocks and education for children are the most hit sectors affecting child health during a natural disaster.

Schools destroyed in natural disasters

Food insecurity becomes extreme after natural calamities hit a nation. Millions of children starve owing to the failing crops and dearth of agricultural supplies. Children experience hunger crisis leading to ill health, starvation, under-nutrition and disease. Respiratory diseases and immunosuppression is manifested visibly in the affected children. Hunger pangs become widespread and the child mortality rate is hit.

Hunger gives rise to malnutrition in children. This is majorly caused due to insufficient nutrients in food supplies. This leads to severe weight loss and stunting of growth. According to the British Medical Journal, “malnutrition in children can also adversely hinder brain development and intellectual capacity in the early stages of life.”

The child psyche is also perturbed by the effects of a natural disaster. Loss of home and loved ones create in children a sense of emotional insecurity leading to emotional distress often known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This leads to low concentration and increased irritability causing education to suffer. Children constantly manifest different behavioural pattern that acts as a detriment for their cognitive thinking.

Education suffers immensely due to these anthropogenic natural calamities. Educational facilities are destroyed and paucity of funds leads to sluggish recovery of schools and affected infrastructure. In the 2010 Haiti earthquake, over 4,000 schools were affected and took several months to resume classes. Similarly, 11,000 schools collapsed in the Pakistan Floods back in 2010 while the earthquake in 2005 killed more than 17,000 children.

Cambodia’s children have also been similarly affected – kids accounted for 80% of deaths in the devastating floods of 2000; whilst floods in 2001 and 2002 also caused extensive destruction to school infrastructure. Death and destruction are not just the only concern. Importance of child education receives a setback owing to trouble in accessing schools, high drop-out rates, dilapidated school infrastructure, classroom curriculum and assessment procedures are all adversely affected due to the aftermath of natural disasters.

Children study in make-shift classrooms

When Nepal recorded 7.8 on the Richter scale on April 25, a total or a partial collapse of over 5,000 schools was reported. Classrooms were no more conducive for regular classes to be held. Schools had now become relief shelters for people. The massive disruption caused by this earthquake and aftershocks on school infrastructure has reverberated strongly into children’s development. Every year such incidents are reported.Typhoon Haiyan ravaged more than 2,500 schools, affecting 1.4 million children in the Philippines in 2013. The recent floods in Malawi also affected hundreds of schools, disrupting education for 350,000 children and more.

Hence we can conclude that natural disasters pose a severe threat to our children’s lives. While summits like COP21 undertake a crucial task of combating climate change on a macro level, we need to also consider the immediate measures we can take to save the children from the ravages of natural disasters. Therefore we would like to know from you, how unanimously we can come up with disaster prevention, disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness programmes to reduce natural calamities from affecting children.

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Discussion Room

Because, the change starts with me!


“The hand that rocks the cradle, the pro-creator, the mother of tomorrow; a woman shapes the destiny of civilization. Such is the irony, that a beautiful creation such as the girl child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity.”

When we look into areas of ushering change; when we talk high about empowering women, encouraging change; education of the girl child is most pressing. “When you educate a man, you educate an individual and when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.” This thought is manifold; self-confidence, intelligence, determination and independence are what education endows a woman with paving the way for her to make a progressive family.

If we delve deeper into this, we can certainly understand that girls not attending school, seem to be higher in number than boys. Millions of girls every single year are denied accesses to protection, psycho-social support and most importantly the right to education. Owing to this, girls are being continually subjected to sexual assault, domestic violence and deprived childhood. Sexual health and reproductive rights are contravened every single day and most women stay mute!

The blessing is that, India contains in her a steel determination in reaching education to all her children, predominantly her girls. India has proudly declared education as a fundamental right which secures constitutional provisions for the girl child to receive compulsory free education. Campaigns like the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ reiterate the importance of elementary education and its effect on our society.

Often educated women too are subject to persecution which restricts their inner potential from impacting the country’s development. Complete denial of independence aggravates gender inequalities and prepares women to remain in confinements perpetually. All of this subjugation stems primarily from prejudice that abounds in our society. ‘Girls are irrational, domestic beings and most importantly slow learners, then why bother educating them?’ is the thought that governs most minds.

This thought needs to change. It is time we start observing women as winds of change! A boorish ignorant mother soon needs to be wiped away from India’s face so that matters of hygiene and sanitation can be taught to the girl child right from her tender years. Malnourishment, a living illustration of this problem needs to be tackled vehemently by both the government and the society so that the health of the girl child is not compromised upon.

Programmes like ‘Mahila Samakhya Program’, ‘National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Level’ (NPEGEL), ‘Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme’, are all initiatives by the government to ensure that the girl child is not bereft of education but unfortunately the scenario has not changed much. The question that still remains unanswered is ‘why’. ‘Why hasn’t there been change when it was expected too?’

The problem is not with the state apparatus, the problem exists in the mind. It is the way of thinking that needs to be changed; people’s commitment towards educating a girl needs to be concrete. It needs to be all pervasive. From somewhere we have to start and the change needs to initiate with us! Further we can diffuse this thought to those who would care to listen. A tiny step today will definitely metamorphose into a giant leap tomorrow!

Do write back to us and tell us how we can open up more avenues and opportunities for the girl child. Collectively as a nation what else can be done to empower the girl child.


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Discussion Room

Observing World Food Day


World Food Day is a day observed every year on October 16, when organisations and people around the world come together to declare solidarity against hunger. They take part in community events and awareness campaigns encouraging people to take action against hunger. Meal packing and delivery, food drives, walkathons, there several ways for one to take part in this quest for a sustainable solution. Because whether well-provided for or underserved, one aspect where individuals of all societies surrender is hunger. It is also true that hunger in many countries has taken on the avatar of an epidemic.

India stands as one of the topmost countries facing the retribution of hunger for many decades now. Here are few facts on India’s standing pertaining to food security—India climbed to the 55th position in the Global Hunger Index 2014 as compared to its 63rd position in 2013; the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) by UNICEF indicates that there has been a decrease in child stunting for children below the age of five in India from 48% in 2004-05 to 38.8% in 2013-14. These statistics may give us a sense of achievement but as a nation we should have had steeper upward graph in the GHI.

Whether the cause for this extensive prevalence of hunger is food wastage, improper storage and distribution, price rise or economic disparity; the continued prevalence of hunger has caused much damage to the children of our nation. 30.7% children under five years old are underweight, 1 in 4 children are malnourished and 3,000 children die every day from poor-diet related illness.

Many NGOs and innovative companies are partaking in the Government’s attempt to counter hunger by taking responsibility in the various initiatives developed. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is one such NGO that implements the Mid-Day Meal Scheme across 10 states benefitting over 1.4 million children every day. By providing these mid-day meals, it aims to bridge the gap of inaccessibility to wholesome food during the growing years of underserved children. Since children have to attend school to benefit from the mid-day meal, it also incentivises children to read and learn, thereby developing them into educated citizens of the nation.

But it not just the Government’s, NGO’s or companies’ responsibility to eradicate hunger, individual involvement is needed to ensure that one day we live in a hunger free society, flagging off with freedom from classroom hunger.

Tell us your thoughts on how we can all contribute to end child hunger in India.

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Discussion Room

Making sense of undernutrition


None of us in India are a stranger to hunger. Living in a country which houses a quarter of all undernourished people across the world, we frequently see the pinched, gaunt faces of hungry men, women and heartbreakingly, the children. Today hunger among children is a very real problem in India; one that the Government, NGOs, corporates and community members have joined forces to fight every day. But in order to tackle the problem, it’s important to first understand it.

Hunger is a state of daily undernourishment where its victims live on less than the number of kilocalories needed a day to meet their energy requirements. As of 2014, one in nine people across the world suffer from undernourishment. Hunger can have devastating effects both physically and mentally, like poor energy levels, lower immunity against diseases, poor concentration and assimilation and much more.

One of the consequences of chronic hunger can be malnutrition, although malnutrition can be found even in the absence of hunger. Malnutrition includes both undernutrition and overnutrition.

Undernutrition, which is deficiencies in energy, protein and/or micronutrients, predominantly manifests in three ways. These are stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height) and micronutrient deficiency (lacking required micronutrients – vitamins and minerals). All of these forms of under nutrition are found to different degrees in children across India.

Stunting in children is more than being too short for their age; it also includes suffering from reduced brain development and cognitive capacity. This has a lasting impact on the child’s life, and on the nation. Children who suffer from stunting have experienced chronic under nutrition during the first two years of their life, which is a critical timeframe for their growth and development. Stunting can occur in children as a result of a malnutrition cycle where an already under nourished adolescent girl later becomes an undernourished mother who gives birth to a low birth weight baby. The situation is exacerbated by continued lack of access to proper nutrition post birth.

Maternal health is huge concern in preventing stunting in children. Inadequate nutrition in mothers before conception and during pregnancy plays a big role in foetal stunting. In fact, fifty per cent of the growth failure in children that happens by the age of two years occurs in the womb due to the poor nutritional status of mothers.

Post-delivery feeding practices for infants are central to their healthy development too. Breastfeeding within the first hour of the baby’s birth is critical to the baby’s survival. Six months of exclusive breastfeeding, with a combination of breastfeeding and nutritious, age appropriate complementary foods in the following months till two years of age or more are critical to preventing stunting in infancy and early childhood.

Although stunting is prevalent in the country, India is making good progress in addressing the issue today. Between 2005-06 and 2013-14 India has achieved a 9.1 percentage point reduction in stunting among children below the age of five, dropping from 47.9 to 38.8 per cent. This has been complimented by a similar improvement in breastfeeding practices in the country with the number of infants below six months of age who are exclusively breastfed increasing from 46.6 to 71.6 per cent in the same time frame.

Wasting or thinness, signified by a low weight to height ratio, is usually the result of extreme starvation or serious disease (either in the short or long term). Typically, wasting becomes evident in the second year of an infant’s life. Wasting can be treated with supplementary foods. In cases of extreme wasting, children can develop Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), which can be treated with a carefully blended combination of proteins, fat, sugar and micronutrients, as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

On the severity scale a national prevalence of wasting between 10-14 per cent is considered a serious problem, while 15 per cent or above is critical. In 2005-06 India had a dire problem with wasting, with 20 per cent of children under the age of five suffering from this affliction. Though the situation has improved slightly according to the 2013-14 figures which show a five percentage point drop to 15 per cent, India’s wasting figures remain critical.

Micronutrient deficiency or ‘Hidden Hunger’ is also an extremely prevalent form of under nutrition. Referred to as Hidden Hunger because it is not visibly apparent, it occurs when people eat food that doesn’t supply them with the right amount of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that they need every day. Hidden Hunger has serious negative consequences on a person’s physical and mental health, especially for pregnant women and children. Over 2 billion people across the world suffer from this deficiency.

Although they are needed in very small quantities, micronutrients allow the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances that are crucial for normal functioning. The absence of these micronutrients, especially Iodine, Vitamin A Folate and Iron, can cause severe ailments and even death.

In India the 2006 National Family Health Survey showed that micronutrient deficiency was alarmingly bad with only 25 per cent of children under the age of five receiving Vitamin A supplementation. However, the same year the Government implemented a biannual supplementation programme, over time increasing the coverage to two-thirds by 2011.

Micronutrient deficiency is a serious issue, but can be tackled by providing access to supplements, fortifying complementary foods for infants between six months to two years of age, and fortifying staples and condiments in the household.

This article aims to bring about an understanding of undernutrition. It’s a messy, complex issue that countries all across the world struggle with. But the right understanding of the issue, combined with resources to tackle it, can help us end the problem once and for all.

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Discussion Room

Shridhar Venkat, Mohandas Pai discuss classroom hunger with Rotarians


Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra, along with T.V. Mohandas Pai, a Trustee with the organisation addressed a gathering of Rotary Club members recently. Some of the dignitaries present at this gathering were Dr. João Cravinho, the Ambassador of the European Union to India; Shailesh Vishnubhai Haribhakti, Advisor at Gaja Capital Partners, Director of IDBI Capital Market Services Ltd; Sumantra Sen, CEO JSW Foundation and Madhav Das, Chief Communication Officer of Deutche Bank.

In their discussion Shridhar and Mohandas Pai spoke about the work the Foundation has undertaken in reducing hunger and poverty amongst children in India, the progress the organisation has made through its mid-day meal programme, and the distance they have yet to go.

“Our vision statement is that no child in India will be deprived of education because of hunger. India is home to 40% of the 165 million malnourished children in the world. 40% of our country’s children are malnourished and about 8.1 million children are out of school. Imagine being put in a classroom without any dinner or breakfast. Due to poverty, children drop out of school and take up menial jobs, missing out on the benefits of education. We have found that education is the most powerful factor to take an entire family out of the cycle of poverty,” says Shridhar, explaining the core focus of Akshaya Patra’s work.

Addressing a serious concern of food safety and quality while providing these nutritious meals to children, Shridhar also talked about the crucial role technology plays in Akshaya Patra’s operations model to cook food efficiently, both in terms of time and raw material. “This requires a lot of automation and the kitchens boast of conveyor belts and machines that can cook for 1,000 children in just 15 minutes. This also means the food is practically untouched by hand making it sterile and hygienic. The organisation also makes sure that the food is piping hot when delivered to the child,” he says.

“Akshaya Patra not only takes care of the hunger aspect but it also takes care of the socialisation objective. All the children, irrespective of caste, creed and religion come together and share a good meal,” Shridhar adds, giving us a glimpse into the greater role the mid-day meal programme plays in transforming society.

Mohandas Pai also expounded on how Akshaya Patra has gone above and beyond in its goal of reducing hunger in India, especially during times of disaster. “There was a cloudburst in Rajasthan, which resulted in floods. In 24 hours, we mobilized and supplied food for 50,000 people. Even in the last Nepal earthquake, we were able to send rotis (Indian flatbread) for 100,000 people in 24 hours,” he says proudly. The Foundation is even now working with the Jamsetji Tata Trust and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha to facilitate building a field kitchen in Nepal to provide healthy food to the earthquake affected region.

Ending the discussion by urging the Rotary Club members to support Akshaya Patra’s work Mohandas Pai said, “The latest data reveals that 30% of India’s children from 0-5 years are malnourished. Some die possibly because of contaminated water and lack of toilets, but largely because of lack of food. If we can just involve ourselves and others in eliminating this kind of hunger, by setting up kitchens where expectant mothers, nursing mothers in poor areas can get food, children will not suffer from malnutrition. When the mother is well nourished, the child will be nourished. And if you do this for the first two years, the child will grow up to be okay. I feel, as a society we don’t understand the problem… I urge you all to abstain from food for two days. Feel the pain; feel what hunger is and then you will understand. And when you feel it, then you will definitely do something about it.”

Share your views on classroom hunger in India, and let us know how you would like to get involved to help us fight this issue. Leave us a comment below.

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