Role of Akshaya Patra
NGOs play an important role in the expansion of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. The State Governments partners with NGOs like The Akshaya Patra Foundation to implement the Mid- Day Meal Programme in order to increase the number of children they reach out to. This Private-Public Partnership (PPP) has proved instrumental in improving the quality and reach of the programme. There are many facets which the Government considers when selecting a non-profit to partner with. Such organizations must be transparent and 'of proven integrity'. The NP-NSPE 2006 lays out some criteria for choosing an NGO. Read more.
“We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty...”
-Millennium Declaration, 2000
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a NGO that works in partnership with the Central and various State Governments of India to provide mid-day meal to 1.3 million children studying in Government schools and Government-aided schools. Founded in June 2000, in Bangalore, Akshaya Patra is currently operating in 19 locations across 9 states of India. Akshaya Patra has been conferred as the World’s Largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Programme.
“No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger"
-Akshaya Patra's vision
The role of Akshaya Patra in implementing Mid-Day Meal programme is much more than just providing school lunch. Through this programme the Foundation aims at achieving the two most critical Millennium Development Goals: elimination of hunger and universalization of primary education.
Akshaya Patra primarily focuses on providing mid-day meal to the children in India and also strives towards their education. For this reason, one can also call Akshaya Patra as NGO for children, even though it is not solely a child specific NGO. It works towards its vision of “No child in India should be deprived of education because of hunger”. To achieve this vision Akshaya Patra believes in providing “unlimited food for education”. The Mid-Day Meal programme gives direct access to food to many Indian children studying in Government and aided schools. This wholesome meal is often their only source of nutrition for the whole day. So to ensure that every child is benefited through this one meal, Akshaya Patra makes its menu according to the local palate. While doing so it is kept in mind that the nutritional value of each meal remains intact and that it meets the requirements of a growing child.
The Foundation runs its operations through two kitchen models- Centralized Kitchens and De-centralized Kitchens. Most of the locations have the Centralized Kitchen facility. This facility is suitable of urban and semi-urban locations. These kitchens are mostly mechanized and apply some of the most innovative technology. Centralized kitchens have the capacity to cook meals for thousands of children within just few hours. The technology and process used in Centralized Kitchens have been a topic of research and study in the course curriculum of many renowned universities like Harvard. On the other hand, the De-centralized Kitchen set-up is used in areas that are not easily accessible. This kitchen facility employs women of that particular area for the cooking process. Ample training and guidance is provided to the employees so that the same hygiene and cleanliness is maintained as in the Centralized kitchen facility.
Surveys indicate that nearly 8.1 million children in India are out of school.* Economic and social circumstances force these children to forgo education and engage in doing menial jobs in order to earn a single meal a day. Research shows that universal education has lagged because of the prevailing hunger and malnutrition state. These two factors reduce school enrolments, hamper performance levels and increase school drop-out rates, especially among girls. Hunger especially classroom hunger impairs a child’s performance even if they do attend school. At this juncture, apart from the role of NGOs in child education, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme acts as a huge incentive in bringing these children to school. It prevents them from working and instead encourages them to study and get educated. In this way the programme also helps in the universalization of primary education.
The Mid-Day Meal programme has seen various positive impacts across India. AC Nielsen Org Marg Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai did a study to measure the impact and role of Akshaya Patra’s work in the year 2006. It came to fore that there has been:
1. Increased enrolment in schools
2. Increased attendance in schools
3. Reduced drop-out rate
4. Improved performance of students in class in terms of better attention span and academic progress.
5. Improved nutritional status of students
Thus, it becomes evident that the role of Akshaya Patra in providing ‘Unlimited food for education’ is designed to address the link between education and hunger. It provides children with a meal rich in nutrients that improves their health and increases their overall well being. It gives each child the opportunity to learn, grow and above all, aim for a brighter future. Akshaya Patra works tirelessly everyday to provide wholesome meals to the children in India so that they can grow up in a hunger free world that gives them the opportunity to make their dreams come true.
*UNICEF, India http://www.unicef.org/india/children_3647.htm