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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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