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Developing A Hunger-Free India

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Watching our tri-coloured flag being hoisted on the occasion of Independence Day is a proud moment for Indians. Many of our ancestors sacrificed their lives to ensure that we live in an independent country. This year, we would be celebrating 70 years of the birth of our nation. The theme for Independence Day 2017 is ‘Forging Ahead Together for Continued National Development’, which explains that to take the country towards positive development, we need more than just a group of activists coming together and fighting for the cause.

Our country has a total population of 1.21 billion, out of which 39% are children, according to Census of India 2010-11. A report by National Center for Biotechnology Information states that children in the age group of 11-13 years are vulnerable to stunting, being underweight. Due to malnutrition in children, prevalence of wasting was observed in children in the age group – 5-7 years.

The report recommended skills-based nutrition education, fortification of food items, effective infection control and training of public healthcare workers, as a solution to improve health of these children. Role of NGOs is required to bring this change in the society. We all need to get together and eradicate malnutrition in India.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) annual report released in 2015, India has 194.6 million undernourished people in the country. It also had the dubious distinction of topping the list of 10 most undernourished countries in the world. If India is to ensure that its development goals are met, the stomachs of its populace must be full and its citizens well-nourished.
The psychological and physiological effects of hunger are well-documented. Hunger affects cognition, stunts physical and mental growth, affects concentration and is also linked to aggression in adulthood. Food insecurity adversely affects economies worldwide too, with losses running into billions of US dollars. Hunger is also one of the key drivers of crime, social injustices and oppression.

Perhaps the most disturbing casualties and victims of hunger in India are the children. Not only does it lead to children dropping out of school for economic reasons, it also affects their attendance, concentration, grades, self-esteem and ability to socialise and connect with people, and ultimately, future prospects. Child labour and exploitation are grave consequences of this very problem.

On the road to making India a developed nation, it is vital that its citizens are happy and healthy. A physically and mentally strong population translates into a formidable workforce that helps a country scale dizzying new heights. Also, if the country is to secure its future, its women and children in particular, have to be looked after with greater care. With concentrated effort and commitment to the cause coming from the government as well as the people, making India hunger-free is certainly possible.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation works towards providing nutritious meals as a solution to eradicate malnutrition in India. This acts as an incentive to encourage children to attend school every day. The school lunch programme, which was started in 2000, currently feeds over 1.6 million children in India. The Foundation aims at reaching 5 million children by 2020.

To develop a successful nation, our national flag was designed, keeping the ideology of positive growth in mind. Akshaya Patra supports this in various ways.

Saffron: This colour represents strength and courage. With our mid-day meals, we ensure that every school-going child is educated and also remains healthy. This makes them strong and ensures that they are confident enough to face any challenges in their life. They will lead the country towards positive development.

White: The middle band, coloured white, indicates peace and truth. It’s not only about eradicating hunger; nutritious meals relieve hunger and aid in bringing positive thoughts in the minds of children. This will ensure they don’t develop anti-social behavior. They will spread peace among the people.

Green: Green colour in our national flag represents fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land. Akshaya Patra has adopted various techniques to ensure that we follow environment-friendly practices in our kitchens. The Foundation has adopted a new organic waste-to-biogas system at its Ballari kitchen. It is capable of generating 120-150 cubic metres of biogas –the system converts vegetable and food waste to energy. The process also generates good quantities of organic manure. This way, we contribute to the growth of India.

Together, we can and we will make a difference! As our spirits soar high this Independence Day, let’s unite to put an end to classroom hunger. Pledge your support to Akshaya Patra’s Mid-Day Meal Programme now!

Jai Hind!

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Food and Education

Hunger stops a child from being well-educated-and-informed

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As we celebrate World Population Day on July 11, a fear that lingers in the mind of every individual is a recent report by the United Nations, which states that the population in India will cross the 1.44 billion mark by 2024. It is estimated to be more than that of China, which is the most populated country today.

The Global Hunger Index released in 2016 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) rates India as a country with ‘serious’ hunger levels. It further states that about 15 per cent of the population of the nation is undernourished. Adequate food intake, both in quantity and quality, is missing. It is a well-known fact that a hungry child cannot absorb lessons easily. And with the growing population, eliminating hunger should start from the basic.

There are various ways hunger affects education:

It affects their cognitive development: A child’s faculties develop during early childhood. Its brain develops quickly. Without the right proportion of protein, nutrients and energy in its meal, the child’s cognitive development would be greatly hindered. Therefore, a nutritious meal plays an importance role in the child’s development.

Increases behavioral problems: A hungry child can easily get irritated. They often face the feeling of being unattended to, may face several health conditions, would lead a stressful life, could face psychiatric distress and other conditions like depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and poor self-esteem. To raise a healthy citizen who would contribute to the positive development of the country, feeding them a wholesome nutritious meal is important.

Harms body structure and confidence levels: It is common to find that an undernourished child weighs less than his or her ideal body weight when compared to the height. Hunger can even cause weight gain, as unhealthy fare seems more appealing when hungry — especially the foods that are high in sugar and sodium. Both these conditions, caused due to hunger, can hamper their confidence levels. They could feel the need to be confined to their comfort zones, which would affect their learning.

Causes long-term health issues: Hunger leads to undernourishment, which impacts their immunity. Children who experience hunger are more likely to contract short-term and long-term diseases. This would force them to drop out of school or they might be absent for a longer duration.

Increases school dropout rate: Due to unavailability of food, children are forced to go out and take up work to sustain themselves and their families. As they grow up, the job becomes the priority and they prefer to drop out of school.

Increased efforts to reach out to all children, even in remote locations, can help us eliminate illiteracy due to hunger. Join us in our efforts to provide nutritious meals to children every day. Sponsor a child!

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Food and Education

Stepping closer towards our mission

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The anticipation one feels prior to the arrival of a delicious meal, is unmatched. The joy that follows the sight of a steaming hot meal is even more intense! Isn’t it wonderful that over 1.6 million school children in India get to experience this very joy every day in the form of a nutritious school lunch from Akshaya Patra? As we scale up our efforts to expand across the country, the number of beneficiaries we feed every day is about to rise dramatically too! Thanks to the groundwork laid in 2016, the year 2017 will see us taking a significant leap towards our mission of feeding 5 million children by 2020.

In 2016, we opened our innings in Maharashtra with our first kitchen in the state, in Nagpur.  We also added two more locations to our presence in Andhra Pradesh – Kakinada and Mangalagiri. Towards the end of the year, in December, we laid the Foundation for our first high-tech mega kitchen at Khandi in Telangana. The construction cost of the kitchen will be covered by the Infosys Foundation, which has donated Rs 18.03 crore towards it. This kitchen will feed over 1,00,000 children in the region from the next academic year.

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Infographic: Akshaya Patra’s reach as of February 2017

We also initiated the process of setting up 11 new kitchens in Uttar Pradesh in the last month of 2016. The groundbreaking ceremony for the same was performed by Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Shri Akhilesh Yadav, on December 26, 2016 at Lok Bhavan, New Secretariat, Lucknow. Children in the districts of Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Etawah, Kannauj, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Rampur and Ballia will benefit from our Mid-Day Meal Programme after the establishment of these kitchens. It will expand our reach to 13 lakh beneficiary children in UP from the current 2,11,680.

We are striving hard to expand our reach across the country, where 179.6 million people live below poverty line. We urgently need your support to ensure that children do not suffer dire consequences due to hunger and lack of education. Walk with us on the road to eliminating classroom hunger now. Join the cause by lending your support!

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Food and Education

Give to Receive: feed children and avail tax exemption!

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“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread,” said the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Classroom hunger affects the health and future prospects of school-going children. This is an issue that needs all our collective efforts to be effectively tackled and eliminated. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feed a hungry child and receive mental and material benefits from the act? We bet it would! Donating to Akshaya Patra not only nourishes the children of the country, it also brings you a sense of great happiness at having done a noble deed and avails you tax exemption!

The receipts acknowledging the donation will be sent to you within 10 days of making the donation – the tax certificate is generated within six days and reaches you within 10 days. The good Samaritans outside of India, who wish to donate to the Foundation need not worry either.

Isn’t it wonderful, this opportunity to bring about a positive impact on the lives of India’s children and feed their dreams? The benefits are reaped not only by the children of this country but by you as well. So, go ahead and contribute to the cause of ‘Unlimited Food for Education’ here!

You can read in greater detail about free donations here.

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Celebrate for a Cause

We, the People of India | Creating a Progressive Future

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The power of the people manifested itself to win India freedom from an oppressive colonial power in 1947 and January 26, 1950, cemented its position in history as a republic. We, the people of India, are the ones who made this Republic; who continue to make this Republic.

Every revolution in the world started with We, the people. The will of the ordinary man fused with that of his/her fellow citizens to form a force. This force, against oppression, against the denial of basic rights, became a movement and permeated the collective conscience of the people. It instigated them to rise in revolt against the forces that kept them from their right to liberty, justice, equality and a decent life.

The preamble of the Constitution of India talks about ‘EQUALITY of status and of opportunity’. One of the important means to ensure this equality is by making education and its fruits available to the children of this great nation, who are brimming with potential. Making this a reality is full of challenges. A study conducted by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) jointly with Global Education Monitoring Report in 2016, found that 47 million children dropped out of school by Std X. It also revealed that India has the third highest number of out-of-primary school children at 2.9 million, who have never attended school. One of the biggest roadblocks to education in the country is poverty, the study found.

The statistics on school education in India may be worrying, but there is hope on the horizon. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme by the Government of India has helped the cause of education in the country widely. The mid-day meals provided in schools across the country have not only improved the health of children, but also resulted in a greater number of school enrolments. Akshaya Patra works in partnership with the Central and State governments of India to implement its Mid-Day Meal Programme, the largest of its kind in the world operated by an NGO.

With over 1.6 million beneficiaries in 11 Indian states, the Foundation’s ‘Unlimited Food for Education’ philosophy has fed the dreams of numerous children over the years. Its immediate mission is to feed 5 million children by 2020 every day, with a nutritious school lunch cooked in its ISO-certified, state-of-the-art kitchens.

Let your Republic Day celebration this year, be towards the fulfilment of the dreams of India’s young hearts and minds. Help the nation take a leap towards progress by contributing to a bright future lit with success and education.

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Food and Education

Akshaya Patra’s Annual Reports – Setting the benchmark for excellence and creativity

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The recently-released Akshaya Patra Annual Report for 2015-16, titled The Passioneers – Bound By Purpose. Driven By Passion, upholds a long tradition of the Foundation’s creative excellence in financial reporting. For the past few years, the organisation has been winning prestigious international and national awards for its highly creative, theme-based presentation of financials. The report this year takes people behind-the-scenes to paint intimate portraits of the faceless people who make the organisation. It includes engagingly told stories of members from different arms of the Foundation – kitchen staff, drivers, security guards and more, with wonderful graphics and illustrations.

At the 2015 Hermes Creative Awards, Akshaya Patra’s annual report for 2014-15, titled Giving Every Dream A Chance, won Platinum – the highest honour at the awards. The theme for the report was the organisation’s eponymous initiative – Giving Every Dream A Chance, which sought to encourage the dreams of the Foundation’s beneficiaries through month-long mentorships. It included beautiful, surreal, monochrome snapshots of the dreams of three children – Shivu – the aspiring astronomer, Manjula – the debuting actress and Shekar – a chef in the making. These spoke of the starry dreams of these young kids and the joy their mentorships under renowned experts brought them, along with a chance to showcase their newly-learned skills and knowledge.  This report also won Gold at the League of American Communications Professionals LLC (LACP) 2014-15 awards.

The Foundation’s much celebrated annual report for 2013-14, titled The Fab Five Superheroes, presented in comic-book style, told the story of its origins and tales of five of its beneficiaries. These young guns were Badal, Vinayak, Ambika, Munna and Mamatha. This unusual, original and highly imaginative annual report won multiple awards, including an Award of Excellence at the 21st Annual Communicator Awards; Gold at the LACP 2013-14 and a Silver at International ARC Awards. Similarly, the 2012-13 annual report won Gold at the 44th Creativity International Print and Packaging Design Awards. This report was designed as a child’s scrapbook!

Over the years, the Foundation’s award-winning annual reports have become illustrious examples of originality. They are testament to the fact that presenting the yearly highlights and financials of an organisation can be fun, imaginative and push the boundaries, without losing any of their seriousness. The ‘much-awaited’ tag that has been attached to Akshaya Patra’s annual reports is fully deserved! You can read and download the latest annual report right here.

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Food and Education

The Passioneers – Celebrating the passion that drives Akshaya Patra

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The betterment of society is a collective responsibility. Individuals and organisations who have the means to make contributions to worthy social causes, entrust non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to make effective use of these contributions. After the end of the year, the NGO annual report details all the happenings and highlights of the year. It not only gives an insight into the workings of the NGO, but also its financials in intricate detail to ensure that every penny is accounted for and communicated to each stakeholder in the organisation. The report also outlines it short-term and long-term goals, lays out a roadmap for the future and lists its accomplishments and aspirations.

The Akshaya Patra Annual Report for 2015-16, released recently, is based on a unique theme. This year, the report, titled The Passioneers – Bound By Purpose. Driven By Passion, celebrates the dedication and toils of the people working behind-the-scenes – the ones who are the wheels and levers that keep the Foundation’s machinery, both material and metaphorical, working smoothly. These include the kitchen staff, security guards, drivers and various other arms that hold up the Foundation and carry it towards its milestones and missions. The report has a touchingly personal feel to it, as employees recount their personal journeys in the Foundation and how it has empowered them.

The year 2015-16 saw Akshaya Patra celebrating a big milestone – the serving of 2 billion cumulative meals since inception. Also, its Chairman, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, by the Government of India. The road ahead for the Foundation is one with a clear vision and mission – feeding 5 million children by 2020. The annual report is a tool for all stakeholders to look to the future through Akshaya Patra’s eyes and see it as imagined by the Foundation. It allows them to be a part of this journey, understand the many ways in which it expects to grow and how they can effectively contribute to bring about this growth.

The Passioneers, thus, is not merely a report card of the Foundation. It is also a celebration of the emotional investment and passion that drives the Foundation. Do give it a read here!

 

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Food and Education

Human Rights Day: Dreaming of an equal world

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The post-World War II world was one that had learnt many painful and valuable lessons from the mistakes of the past.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations, in a bid to promote equality and assert the rights of individuals across the globe, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). To mark this occasion, Human Rights Day is observed around the world.

There are 30 Articles describing the rights that constitute the UDHR – civil,  economic, political, cultural, social – that humanity is entitled to. As its Preamble states, ‘this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education  to promote respect for these rights and freedoms  and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.’

Among the 30 Articles, all of exceeding importance, Article 25 recognises the right to a standard of living that ensures the health and well-being, which includes food, housing, clothing, medical care, among other necessities. This is followed by Article 26, which recognises the right to education. Akshaya Patra, with its philosophy of ‘unlimited food for education’, has been striving to ensure that the children of India aren’t deprived of these rights. Classroom hunger is a menace that keeps children from availing these basic rights and thus, affects their future prospects and hampers the realisation of their aspirations.

With one wholesome, nutritious meal a day, over 1.6 million children across 11 states in India have an incentive to attend school, concentrate in class and dare to dream big. Many among these beneficiaries wish to be IAS officers,  doctors, architects, soldiers, engineers – all due to the promise of one meal that is shared with schoolmates belonging to diverse religious, social and cultural backgrounds. Thus, the Foundation’s mid-day meal initiative also fosters social inclusion.

To join Akshaya Patra in the fight against classroom hunger and secure children with the right to food and education, donate here.

 

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Food and EducationGeneral

Plant-based diets contribute to good health and a greener world

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Millions of children across India are nourished with Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals every day. These meals are purely vegetarian, including a plethora of vegetables, pulses, legumes and nuts, calibrated to provide adequate amount of nutrition to children. The Foundation’s commitment to vegetarianism stands firm, as the world discovers the many benefits of plant-based diets. These include the obvious health benefits (since the foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants, among other nutrients), along with a positive impact on the environment.

So, what are these benefits that come with consuming food items from the plant kingdom? The base of good health is laid in childhood, with a robust diet and adhering to plant-based eating habits can be richly rewarding. Firstly, a vegetarian diet has been proven to reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. It also aids weight loss and metabolic control. Another significant advantage of including food items sourced from plants is its positive effect on cardiovascular health and prevention, reduction and even reversion of heart disease. Vegetables with high fibre content, along with minerals and vitamins, help prevent the clogging of arteries and reduce stress.

Plant-based diets also score high on the impact they have on the environment. A study published in the science journal Nature by scientists from the University of Minnesota in the United States of America stated that plant-based diets could reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions across the world and lessen the impacts of climate change driven by food production. The Akshaya Patra Foundation recognises this and has always gone the extra mile to be greener – it has undertaken the task of installing biogas plants and solar panels at its kitchens across India, making use of renewable energy to prepare its meals. Additionally, vegetarian diets are more sustainable compared to its alternatives because plant-based agriculture isn’t as resource-intensive as other forms of agriculture.

The world is embracing vegetarianism with renewed vigour and as more benefits of plant-based diets are revealed, it is becoming a movement that gathers momentum with every successive year. Akshaya Patra’s beneficiaries love the tasty, healthy vegetarian fare served by the Foundation, which fuels their dreams each school day. To make sure that they receive these nutritious mid-day meals every day, contribute to the cause of Food for Education here.

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Food and Education

Kaleidoscopic Dreams of Akshaya Patra’s Children

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Children’s Day is approaching and we couldn’t be happier! School Children have been our focus through 16 years of Mid-Day Meal Programme. We welcome you to celebrate Children’s Day with our 1.6 million Akshaya Patra beneficiaries!  

Childhood – a time of innocence, frolic and carefreeness. The realities of life are at a safe distance, as a child’s world is cocooned by elders and unmarred by experience. A day like Children’s Day is a wonderful occasion, devoted to the most celebratory phase of one’s life.  While the colours of childhood are always bright, the land beyond the mountain – adulthood – always holds much fascination to the young mind. Akshaya Patra’s beneficiaries are no different – their kaleidoscope of dreams for the future shining through in varied hues.

Pithali from Assam loves dramatics and dreams of becoming an actress in Assamese movies. Hailing from Khudradadhi, Assam, this lady also wants to travel the world with her family of five, which includes her father, a seasonal mason; her mother, who stitches beautiful mekhela chadars (Assamese garment) and siblings. Then, there is Rohit from Vrindavan, who wants to be a professional Kho-kho player when he grows up. Now that’s an interesting choice!

In a village on the outskirts of Jaipur, there’s Salim, whose father owns a transport business. They use their donkeys to transport construction material and other heavy equipment. Salim wants to take over this family business, so that his father can retire and relax at home, after all, the hard work he has put in over the years. Down South, in Bengaluru, there’s Madan, who wants to serve the country by joining the Indian Administrative Services (IAS). He takes inspiration from the late IAS officer DK Ravi, whose personality and intelligence he ardently admires.

Chetan from Surat, whose family migrated to the city from Amravati in Maharashtra, wants to contribute to cityscapes by becoming an architect and designing tall buildings. Zinkal, from the city of Ahmedabad, wants to be the face of girl power and join the army to defend the nation. This is a dream that her family too has for her, which she wants to fulfil after growing up. She is an avid sportswoman, interested in track and field events like the long jump.

Akshaya Patra’s meals thus fuel the dreams of its beneficiaries. The organisation also took up a special initiative – Giving Every Dream A Chance – to bring a few of its beneficiaries a step closer to their dreams, by launching month-long mentorship programmes for them, under the guidance of experts. As India celebrates the spirit of childhood and all its children this Children’s Day, the Foundation, which only recently celebrated its 16th birthday on November 11, reaffirms its commitment to secure the futures of millions of children across India with unlimited food for education.

Fan the dreams of school children this Children’s Day. Contribute to strengthening their future.

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