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Akshaya Patra – Powering through to realise its Mission 2020

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We’re midway through 2017 and the year has been an exciting one for The Akshaya Patra Foundation so far! New beginnings, new kitchens and many more beneficiaries – the Foundation is well on its way to fulfill its mission of feeding 5 million children by 2020.

In the northeastern part of the country, Akshaya Patra expanded its reach to the state of Tripura. Our kitchen, at Kashiram Para in the Kanchanpur Sub-division of the state, is a centralised kitchen feeding a total of children. This our second kitchen in the northeastern states, the other one being in Guwahati, Assam, which feeds 47,249 children in 607 schools.

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Our kitchen at Bhavnagar

We also added to our reach in Gujarat, with our kitchen at Bhavnagar – the fifth largest city in the state. This kitchen – a centralised kitchen – serves meals to 28,000 children in 57 schools in the state. The kitchen was inaugurated by Shri Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat and was set up with assistance from our donors – Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC),
Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Gujarat Gas Ltd (GGL).

We are also in the process of significantly expanding our reach in Uttar Pradesh (UP) with the launch of 11 new kitchens. These kitchens will be set up in the cities of Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Etawah, Kannauj, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Rampur and Ballia. Currently, we have kitchens at Lucknow and Vrindavan in UP. The establishment of the 11 upcoming kitchens will take our reach in the state to 13 lakh beneficiaries from the 2,11,680 children we are currently feeding there.

The Foundation will also expand its reach in Rajasthan, with our sixth kitchen there at Bhilwara. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for the same with Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (RECL), in the presence of Mr Harsh Baweja, Chief Project Manager of RECL Jaipur; Shri Govind Dasa, President of Akshaya Patra Rajasthan; and Shri Raghupati Dasa, Programme Coordinator – Akshaya Patra Jaipur.

Watch this video featuring Akshaya Patra’s mega kitchen to know how the Foundation prepares wholesome meals for school children every day

Akshaya Patra’ kitchens – the force behind its school lunch programme – adhere to the strictest qualities of hygiene while cooking tasty, nutritious meals. The Foundation’s expansion across India will feed the cause of ‘food of education’ through its state-of-the-art kitchens to benefit the nation’s future – its children. You can join the cause by making a donation to help ensure that no child is deprived of education due to hunger.

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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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Consuming With Care This Earth Day!

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Each year the world unites to celebrate Earth Day on 22 April to demonstrate their support and concern for global environmental issues. This modern environmental movement is observed to put an end to the escalating issues of environmental degradation and to increase awareness among people to make a bid for change!

We the 7.4 billion inhabiting this planet, must understand that this is our only home, and it is our collective responsibility to preserve it so that we can pass on a green planet to our next generation. Hence we at Akshaya Patra have adopted certain eco-friendly initiatives, in our attempt to redress our earth from this cesspool of environmental degradation.

480-X-280 biogas imageAkshaya Patra as a part of its Go Green initiative has adopted a new organic waste to biogas system at its Ballari kitchen. This Biogas technology is among the most proven processes, which converts organic waste into energy. This Bio Gas 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. Besides converting vegetable wastes and cooked food wastes and rejects into LPG it also generates large volumes of enriched organic manure through anaerobic fermentation, which can supplement or even replace chemical fertilizers.

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.

These Biogas plants significantly lower the greenhouse effects on the earth’s atmosphere. The plants also lower methane emissions by entrapping the harmful gas and using it as fuel. Biogas is also an efficient way of energy conversion as it saves non-renewable source of energy. It also helps in effective disposal of kitchen wastes and effluents thereby improving hygiene and most importantly the environment.

Another environment friendly initiative adopted by Akshaya Patra is the Solar plant in our Vasanthapura Kitchen in Bengaluru. This plant has the capacity to produce 1100 units of power a month that is used to run all kitchen appliances. This solar plant runs through the use of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to direct electricity saving Rs 8,000 per month. The electricity generated through these PV cells helps in running the entire kitchen facility till four am in the morning.

Besides the Biogas Plant and the Solar Plant, Akshaya Patra has also opted for other green practices. One such initiative is the implementation of effluent treatment plants in our kitchens that help in efficient handling of run-offs and wastes. We have also optimised our meal delivery routes to reduce carbon emissions. Akshaya Patra has also implemented the use of Biomass briquettes as fuel for our boilers substituting coal and charcoal, thereby conserving non-renewable source of energy that is fast depleting from our planet.

Akshaya Patra is also aiming to adopt these green technologies not only in our Karnataka kitchens but across all our kitchens in Pan India. Committed to working towards a greener future, we are constantly looking out for ways of implementing eco-friendly technologies in our kitchens that will ensure reduction of negative human impact on the environment as well as replace the use of LPG in our kitchens.

Akshaya Patra as a non-governmental organisation is happy to do its bit towards conserving our planet and its resources. We at Akshaya Patra sincerely believe that most of the environmental concerns would disappear if humans refrain from using coal, petroleum and natural gas for power generation, and shift their focus on renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and hydroelectricity that are naturally replenished!

 

 

 

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International Women’s Day: Women Who Inspire

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“The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that … women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.” – Louise Otto

Annually, March 8 is observed as International Women’s Day to celebrate women’s economic, political, and social achievements throughout history. While the same is observed across the world, many women are of the opinion that there need not be a designated day to celebrate their courage and strength.

Women’s Day is meant to spread awareness about the progress women have made over the years. It’s always good to spread the word about someone’s achievements as they then inspire thousands of others; point in case the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who braved terror to fight for female education.

There is no dearth of such inspirational stories. Take, for instance, the story of American tennis player, Billie Jean King, who fought for equal pay in the sport, or Rosa Parks, whose refusal to vacate her seat became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Then there were women like Hellen Keller, who campaigned for deaf and blind people after losing her hearing ability and sight at the age of 19, and Margaret Thatcher, who defied all odds to become the first female Prime minister of Great Britain.

Names like Maria Sharapova, Saina Nehwal, and Mary Kom, who have taken the sporting world by storm, need no introduction. Then there are the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Chanda Kocchar, CEO of ICICI Bank, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, etc., who have made it big in the corporate world. Each of these women—and many more like them—have inspired thousands of others to achieve what they want to.

Back home, we have a whole list of inspiring women; Rani Laxmibai, Savitribai Phule, and Annie Besant being some of them. Also, there are women who dedicated their entire life for a cause. One apt example of the same is Mother Theresa, a selfless nun who served people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc., throughout her life.

You don’t need to look beyond your surroundings to find women who are putting in great deal of efforts to ensure that things are smooth; your mother or wife, or maybe your colleague. In fact, we at Akshaya Patra are surrounded by these superheroes who work tirelessly to bring about smiles on children’s face.

You yourself must have looked up to some of these women for inspiration. If you have, we would like to know who was your inspiration and why. You can share it with us here or on Facebook. Like we said earlier, it’s important that the remarkable achievements of these women reach out to the whole world as their stories have the potential to inspire.

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Towards Social Justice, One Meal at a Time

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In his message for the World Day of Social Justice, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.

As a concept, social justice stresses on equality in terms of wealth distribution, opportunities, and privileges in a society. While that may seem elementary, it’s something that our society needs to be reminded of, every now and then, and that’s why 20th of February every year is observed as the World Day of Social Justice.

On paper, it definitely comes across as something noble—the concept that is, and it’s highly unlikely that you will come across someone who doesn’t speak in its favor. However, when it comes to application, even the ardent supporters of the concept tend to falter; courtesy, inherent bias.

The divide between haves and have-nots is perhaps nowhere as stark as it is in schools in our country. Imagine, during the lunch break, some children are eating from their lunch boxes, while some have to settle with water, as they can’t afford food. It may come as a surprise, but that was exactly the case in several parts of the country until recently.

Then came the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS), to implement which the Government of India got into a partnership with certain NGOs; The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) being one of them. It brought about a positive change in our society and took us a step closer towards a world where there would be no need to observe a day to remind us of the importance of social justice.

Having said that, it’s important to note that Akshaya Patra had set on this path long before the Mid-day Meal Scheme was initiated. It came into being in the year 2000 and 15 years down, has reached far and wide. The pan-India spread of Akshaya Patra, with 24 kitchens across ten states, serving over 1.5 million children in over 11,000 schools every day, means there is no scope to falter.

It’s doesn’t make sense to have a wide reach, if you are not able to adapt to the requirements of different regions. Therefore, regardless of whether it is Baran in Rajasthan or Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Akshaya Patra thrives to stay true to the local preferences, which is why the diet is wheat-based in North India and rice-based in the south.

It’s always important to walk the talk; all the more when it comes to social justice, and Akshaya Patra, with improving socialisation among castes as one of its objectives, does that and more. In fact, Akshaya Patra prides itself in being a secular organisation. In a country where caste has long been reinforced in the social fibre, it’s important to put in efforts to break the caste divide. What better way to do that, but to use meals to bring children together—staying true to the phrase, bonding over food.

We often hear about how Akshaya Patra thrives to address issues like hunger and malnutrition in the country by eliminating classroom hunger. While the focus is indeed on eliminating classroom hunger and at the same time, improving enrolment and attendance, it doesn’t mean its impact is restricted to the field of education and nutrition. There are other areas where the organisation is having an impact; promoting socialisation among castes is one of them; facilitating women empowerment by providing employment opportunities is another.

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Be our catalysts of change!

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Every year on 26 January India ardently gears up to celebrate its Republic Day with invigorated zeal and honour to mark the evolution of a ‘Republic India’ from British hegemony. The flavour of the day is showcased by royal parades, spectacular aerobatics by Indian fighter jets showcasing cultural wealth, martial supremacy and sky soaring patriotic fervour. It is a day of celebration for every Indian as Indian citizens unitedly celebrate this day by putting cultural and communal differences in their backseat.

But in the midst of festivity and gala we often become oblivious of the fact that though we have attained sovereignty there are certain teething challenges in India that have been a concern for the nation since its inception. One such challenge is food insecurity leading to poverty and malnutrition. The day food insecurity will cease to prevail in India; citizens will witness a new dawn of a truly republic and welfare India.

Hence recognising the importance of eradicating hunger and malnutrition, we at the Akshaya Patra family since 2000 have made continual strides to feed as many children we can through our Mid-Day Meal Programme. We humbly started with feeding 1500 children and today we are feeding 1.58 million children every day across India.

Akshaya Patra truly believes that on this Republic Day we all should become catalysts of change to build resilience against hunger so that our children do not face food insecurity. We strongly urge every individual to associate with our humanitarian cause and donate towards feeding more vulnerable and undernourished children so that with your support and contribution we can march towards our mission “to feed 5 million children by 2020”

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Education is our right too!

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For women the most straightforward and rational path to empowerment is education! With education comes the immediate benefit of empowered girls who can participate equally like men in the political, social, cultural and economic affairs of one’s country. The benefit of educated girls does not limit to well-establishment on an individual level but it also leads to the depth and quality of a nation’s workforce.

According to a recent study conducted in 95 nations by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reported that “India can increase its 2025 gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at $4.83 trillion, by between 16% and 60% simply by enabling women to participate in the economy on par with men.” Sadly India records as a nation with one of the world’s largest gender gaps in matters of labour force participation generating a mere of only 17% of India’s GDP. This gender gap leads to condense or no education for girls at all.

The low-slung concern attached to girls’ education in India is much owing to certain stereotypical deep-rooted features of gender relations and biases like:

• Gender division of labour
• The stringent norms of patrilocal residence; village exogamy
• The infamous practice of dowry
• Girls being considered as slow learners, irrational
• Family prejudice towards girls’ education
• Increasing ideology of a male child
• Higher preference for son’s education
• The received idea of men as breadwinners

These factors have only intensified with time leading to girls being deprived of education, their only roadway to empowerment, gender equality, greater financial independence, security and freedom from violence and discrimination.

Hence, India since Independence has made continuous strides to educate her girls and combat burning issues like gender based inequality, girls being confined to domestic thresholds, pressures of poverty halting girls’ education, reduced enrolment rates and high drop-out rates of girls in schools.

India understands that a literate mother can function as a life source for her children as she can help her children identify importance of basic hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. Moreover she can also contribute considerably to her family’s income thereby ensuring financial security for the entire family.

Hence recognising the importance of education for girls the Government has initiated numerous educational programmes and schemes to accord more importance to girls’ education. Six such top education schemes are:

• Shiksha Sahayog Yojana
• Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
• Saakshar Bharat
• Kanya Saaksharta Protsahan Yojna
• Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Yojna
• Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

With these schemes in place, it is evident that the Government is definitely making efforts but it is time that we do our bit. On this National Girl Child Day, we could all work together to educate girls so that they can make decisions and influence community change in key areas thereby uplifting their own socio-economic status.

At Akshaya Patra, we are determined to reach education to every girl child through our Mid-Day Meal Programme. Often, one wholesome meal a day is enough motivation for the child to come to school.

‘Educate girls to nurture society’ is what we believe in and every morsel served is to bring children closer to education.

 

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All for the Youth!

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Our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi averred, “If we have to promote the development of our country, then our mission has to be skill development and skilled India. Millions of Indian youth should go for acquisition of skills and there should be a network across the country for this and not the archaic systems.” Keeping this thought in mind, after campaigns like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ Narendra Modi has launched a new programme called ‘Skill India’. This is a multi-skill programme exclusively launched and designed for the youth of our country to usher multiple job opportunities and prevent brain drain form our country.

This year on the occasion of National Youth Day we will delve deep into the importance and relevance of skill development as this year’s theme of National Youth Day 2016 is “Indian Youth for Development, Skill and Harmony.” India since its inception has been struggling with issues of unemployment and poverty that go hand in hand in our nation. Today according to the Labour Ministry report on Youth Employment-unemployment scenario, it is found that the unemployment rate is 13.3% for the age group 15-29. The report further observed that “people are actually overqualified for the job they are doing and therefore society is losing their valuable skills and forfeiting stronger productivity growth that would have been achieved”.

Therefore it can be clearly stated that Modi’s ‘Skill India’ programme is indeed the need of the hour. Where 1 out of every 3 individual in the age group of 5-29, who have completed at least their graduation are found to be unemployed, vocation training and skill development is the only medium by which the youth can be empowered and unemployment and poverty can be kept at a bay. ‘Skill India’ aims at providing skill development to 40.02 crore youth of India by 2022, covering every Indian village for which various training programmes and schemes have already been proposed.

What’s new in ‘Skill India’?

In order to guarantee skill and trained manpower Skill India programme unlike the earlier skill development policies where stress was given only to traditional jobs, promises equal emphasis to all kinds of jobs. Earlier, the responsibility was divided among various ministries, but this time all ministries are clubbed together for a greater success of the programme. Not only that, even corporate educational institutions, Government and non-Government set ups are expected to contribute considerably leading to greater youth development in the shortest time possible. Under this programme even jobless and dropouts will be given value addition by providing certificates that will be recognised by private and public agencies including overseas organisations after successful completion of a particular skill development programme.

Advantages of ‘Skill India’:

  • Increased employment
  • Raise confidence among the youth
  • Improve productivity and knowledge
  • Enable youth to get blue-collar jobs
  • Development of skills at school level
  • Balanced growth in all sectors
  • Equal importance to all jobs
  • Compulsory soft skill training for every job aspirant
  • To touch base with rural and remote India

On a comprehensive note ‘Skill India’ is by far one of the best initiatives the Government has taken. Providing vocational and soft skills training to youths of India that has the highest demographic dividend is indeed a noble and judicious undertaking. If this programme succeeds then India will definitely have 40.02 crore trained workforce by 2022.

Focusing on programmes for a skilled India, Akshaya Patra works in partnership with the Government of India to enhance the skills of the workforce involved in the mid-day meal programme.

The organisation also conducts massive training for number of cook-cum-helpers of Mid-Day Meals Programme, across India; in association with Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Akshaya Patra believes that skilful people means a ‘skilled India’ and it is committed to participate in all initiatives that cater to developing ‘Skilled India’.

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Shannu Kaw, Our New Member of Board of Advisors!

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Shannu Kaw, Director- Global Business Services at Cisco Systems has joined Akshaya Patra as an advisory member. She is a multi-faceted and dynamic business leader with over 19 years of rich experience in the Technology Industry across areas of Business Operations, Procurement, Product Development and Software Engineering.

Shannu at present is functioning as Director, Global Business Services (GBS) at Cisco; she is in charge for managing Cisco’s Indirect spends in Asia Pacific and Japan which includes Strategic Partnerships, Procurement Operations, Spend Optimization and Procurement Relationship Management for the region. She in her 15+ years in Cisco has held various leadership positions which include Head of Global Partner Engineering and Contingent Labour, leading New Business Incubation and Software Development.

Prior to Cisco, Shannu has worked with Huges Software Systems and GAIL. She is the founding member of the Cisco India Civic Council and leads Cisco’s giving back initiatives like the Global Hunger Relief Programme and School Adopt Programme. She is also on the advisory board of WeConnect India, an industry forum for supporting Supplier Diversity and Women Entrepreneurs.

Shannu is an Alumnus of IIM-Bangalore (Executive General Management) and BITS Pilani (Electrical and Electronics Engineering). Beyond work, she is an avid reader and supports various social and community initiatives.

Shannu’s business acumen and expert guidance will further propel Akshaya Patra to a glorious journey of sustainability and growth!

Watch a conversation with Shannu Kaw, Director for Global Business Services at Cisco Systems

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Vicky Roy: From street child to shutterbug

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Vicky Roy has had an interesting past. His life is a success story that is inspiring and captivating to not just the underprivileged, but to those who are on the path to success like our beneficiaries, and even those of us who could be considered blessed.

Vicky ran away from home at the innocent age of 11 to escape the conditions of his life. He lived a life of a street child working as a rag picker and collecting bottles to be sold. He even worked in a street side restaurant washing dishes till he eventually found shelter in an NGO.

This is where his life changed. In 2001 when his friend took part in a photography workshop, and visited Sri Lanka and Indonesia, Vicky became intrigued by the idea of photography. In fact, it was his desire to travel that led Vicky to discover his passion for photography, and follow this passion to the place where everything started – back to the streets. He took on his first project Street Dreams which was sponsored by the British High Commission. The exhibition was grand success, and travelled to London, South Africa and Vietnam. Showcasing the lives of street children and their dreams for a better future, Vicky’s personal experience and empathy allowed him to connect fully with the children of the street and bring his photographs to life.

Vicky attended ICP (International Centre of Photography), the best photography school in the world, and was asked to photo document the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. Discovering a confidence in himself and his talent Vicky even found himself lunching with Prince Andrew in Buckingham Palace!

Vicky’s life story is one of grit and determination; he is one of the famous speakers of TEDx and INK Talks. Even today Vicky has not forgotten his humble beginnings and mentors young beneficiaries at NGOs in the art of photography. Vicky extended this same generosity to Akshaya Patra when he worked with us pro bono.

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