Unfolding stories of transformation

Families with access to limited opportunities often struggle to put food on their plates and frequently children become a part of this fight for survival, losing their childhood in the process. But when children get access to every day nutrition and proper education, the narrative changes.

For them, it means new prospects. It gives them the chance to attend school, learn, grow and pursue their dreams. In order to ensure that children from backgrounds with limited opportunities have equal access to opportunities as their more privileged peers, The Akshaya Patra Foundation implements the government’s PM POSHAN Abhiyaan (previously known as the Mid-Day Meal Programme). Under this programme, hot and nutritious school lunch is served to over 2 million children every day throughout an academic year.

These meals support the health and education of children and act as an incentive for parents to send their wards to school as it takes care of their child’s one meal. This eases the burden on them when they are already struggling financially to make ends meet. When children access nutritious meals in schools, it also encourages them to study well and dream big.

Let us read the stories of some MDM beneficiaries of Akshaya Patra and see how mid-day meals have transformed their lives.

Though Vikas is just 11-year-old, he understands the financial struggles that his family goes through every day. He knows that education can help him overcome it. He says, “I love coming to school because I get education and food here. After completing my studies, I want to join the army and protect the nation.

While Vikas receives good quality education at school, the nutrition is taken care by Akshaya Patra. Speaking more about his school lunch, Vikas says: “One of the main reasons for coming to school is food. We don’t have enough food to eat at home. So, I come to school because I can eat here as much as I want here. This also helps my family as they don’t need to worry about my lunch. We receive a variety of dishes here. My favourite among them is Dal-Chawal and Roti-Sabzi.”

When asked about how the household expenses are taken care of, Manjunath gawks at the window and goes silent for a minute. After a brief pause, he says: “We have agricultural land in their native place. One part of the same is rented out to a farmer in the village. My father has mortgaged the remaining part of the land for borrowing a loan. The loan amount and rent received from it is the only source of income.”

Manjunath’s mother spends most of her time taking care of her ailing husband and her aged mother-in-law. Hence, it is difficult for her to take up a job to support her family. A major chunk of the loan procured goes on his father’s treatment and medicine. Some amount from rent goes into loan repayment. The rest is used to manage the expenses for the month.

The critical condition in the family made Manjunath think again about the dreams he wants to pursue. “I want to be an artist, create colourful paintings and display them in my exhibition,” he says while excitingly showing his colourful sketches. He shows one of his sketches which showcases his creative side at a young age: two parrots sitting on a tree on a full moon night looking at each other. “However, I am not sure if it can fetch me any money. Even if it does, there is no possibility that it would be good enough to solve the financial issues which we are facing,” he says, letting out a sigh.

This uncertainty of success plagued with an existing crisis has made him develop an alternate career option. He says: “I have a backup plan. If my art exhibition doesn’t work, I will join the police force. It is not as good as being a renowned artist. But I can’t do anything about it.” Manjunath’s teachers are all praises for his vivid imagination, eye for details and contrast colour choices. They hope that he does not drop his ambition to become a painter.

When I grow up, I want to become a teacher because I want children to have a bright future and achieve their dreams. My aunt is also a teacher and seeing her at work fuels my determination. As for mid-day meals, I enjoy dal roti and dal rice. When I am free, I like to study, dance and play kho kho and hide and seek.”

Shashank says: “Since the day my father had a fracture, he is unable to drive vehicles like he did before. Now my grandfather is driving the bus and he is the sole breadwinner of our family.”

The current situation along with his mother’s hard work and sacrifice to support his education has become a motivation for him to pursue his aspirations. “I want to become a police office. My mother shares the same dream with me,” Shashank says with a firm determination in his eyes.

This can be further reflected in his actions. While Shashank’s friends were enjoying their summer vacations, Shashank was studying and completing the notes assigned by his teachers. Due to the current conditions at his home, Shashank often comes to school without breakfast. This is where meals by provided by Akshaya Patra help him. “I like the Akshaya Patra’s food,” Shashank says jovially while enjoying meals with his friends. He further continues: “My favourite among the menu is Bisibele Bath, Sambhar and Rasam served with rice.”

I was waiting for school to reopen, so I can meet my friends, talk to them about their holidays and practice cricket with them.”

He dreams of becoming a cricketer and practices it every day at school with his friends. This is one of the main reasons why he was looking forward to going back to school after vacation. While he learns how to play at school, there is another aspect which needs to be taken care of – nutrition. This is taken care of by Akshaya Patra through the school meal programme. Akshaya Patra ensures the health and wellbeing of children through the nutrition welfare programme, thus putting wings on their dreams.

Like Vikas, Manjunath, Shivani, Shashank and Manu, there are 2 million children who benefit from Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme. These meals help students like them study with complete focus and work hard towards achieving their dreams. The meals help children in taking one step further in achieving their dreams.

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