Aruna Chetana

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He gripped the spoon tightly, shying away and looking through the corner of his eyes. In just an audible whisper, he said that his favorite meal was rice and sambhar, that he also liked sweet. He put another spoonful of rice into his mouth with a happy smile.

13 year old Prateek is a special child suffering from cerebral palsy. Born in a middle class family, Prateek goes to the Aruna Chetana, a school for children with special needs where Akshaya Patra also serves the mid-day meals. Almost all the children eat Akshaya Patra’s freshly cooked food everyday at lunch.

Gayathri, the Vice President of Aruna Chetana, expresses enthusiasm at the Akshaya Patra programme implemented in the school:
“Children enjoy their meal especially when items like Bisi Belebath, sweet pongal and vegetable pulav are a part of the menu.”

Parents usually visit the school to keep a check on their children and are very happy over the lunch being served. Some of the staff of this 22 year old initiative also feed children who need assistance. And for about 60 young toddlers who are a part of the nursery, the rice is smashed to make it easier for little ones to swallow.

The other staff, along with Gayathri feel that the Akshaya Patra meal, definitely, is serving as a catalyst to make these little ones get the nutrition they need.

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It’s all about tackling hunger on a sunny afternoon

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A thought similar to this would run across anyone’s mind when they see a horde of young children, in their blue uniforms, run with their plates to the lunch area in the Government Higher primary school in Thalaghata, Bangalore. The impatience they exuded implied that they were all hungry. The importance of a freshly-cooked, nutritious meal served in a school, attended mostly by underprivileged children, can be derived by just visualizing the eagerness in which the children waited to fill their plates, eventually their stomachs.

“I love coming to school because I enjoy eating lunch here” said Bharath Kumar, a fifth grade student, as he relished his treat of rice with sambhar. Many other children shared a similar voice. “I come to school everyday because I don’t have to stay hungry till dinner” said 14-year-old Mallikarjuna, while he helped the school staff in serving sambhar to his other fellow students. Mallikarjuna’s mother, who works as a construction labourer after his father’s death, barely manages to fend for a single meal for the family.

The 8th grade student’s routine in school has given him a chance to aspire for a better future for him and his family.

Several such examples can be found appraising the success of the Government’s mid-day meal programme. The enthusiasm, realization and contentment with which children eat the Akshaya Patra meal complement the benefits and the success of the programme.

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