The Foundation was bestowed with the prestigious honour for providing mid-day meals to children across the country.
February 26, 2019, New Delhi: The prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2016 was conferred upon The Akshaya Patra Foundation for its contribution towards the socio-economic development of India by providing mid-day meals to millions of children across the country. A cash prize and citation were presented to His Grace Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman – The Akshaya Patra Foundation, jointly by the Honourable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, and the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi at a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 26th February, 2019.
Also present at the ceremony were Minister of State for Culture, Dr. Mahesh Sharma; Member of Parliament, Shri L. K. Advani; and other dignitaries.
Instituted by the Government in 1995 during the commemoration of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the annual award is conferred on individuals and institutions for their outstanding contributions towards social, economic and political transformation while adhering to the ideals of the Mahatma.
On 16th January, 2019, the winners of the award for the last four years were announced. The jury comprising of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Chief Justice of India, Shri Ranjan Gogoi; Lok Sabha Speaker, Smt Sumitra Mahajan; Leader of the INC in Lok Sabha, Shri Mallikarjuna Kharge; and Member of Parliament, Shri L. K. Advani unanimously selected Akshaya Patra for its outstanding contribution in the social sector.
On winning the award, His Grace Madhu Pandit Dasa said, “It is a matter of exceptional pride and honour for Akshaya Patra to be selected for the Gandhi Peace Prize. With the vision ‘No child should be deprived of education because of hunger,’ we have been serving fresh, nutritious meals to children in government schools since 2000.” The Foundation has been striving to address hunger and malnutrition in India and incentivise education by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in government and government-aided schools across 12 states.
In his address, President Ram Nath Kovind lauded Akshaya Patra’s efforts in feeding children with nutritious mid-day meals on a large scale. He said, “By leveraging technology to feed children a quality and hygienic meal, Akshaya Patra has set world-class standards. Through its efforts the Foundation is reaching out to nearly 18 lakh children in 12 states across the country. I have been told that Akshaya Patra, through its endeavour, is also contributing towards the two UN Sustainable Development Goals of Zero Hunger and Quality Education.”
Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "Akshaya Patra has given the Government's initiative to provide mid-day meals to children a professional touch through a successful Public-Private Partnership with the Government. I recently had the opportunity to serve Akshaya Patra's three billionth meal in Vrindavan.” He also said, “If children are healthy, then India will be healthy.”
At the event commemorating the Foundation’s milestone, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appreciated Akshaya Patra’s efforts. He said, “Akshaya Patra has been bestowed the Gandhi Peace Prize for providing mid-day meals to lakhs of children. Besides that, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa was honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri award. My heartiest congratulations to all of you for these honours.” The Prime Minister concluded by saying, “I congratulate you for your remarkable achievements and wish that you will continue with the same attitude of service and dedication.”
In winning the Gandhi Peace Prize, Akshaya Patra joins the esteemed company of selfless individuals and organisations from across the world, such as the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela; South African activist, Desmond Tutu; Social Worker, Baba Amte; and environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt (renowned for the Chipko Movement), as well as notable institutions, such as the country’s premier space agency, ISRO; and the microfinance organisation from Bangladesh, Grameen Bank.
Thanking the government for its continued support to the Foundation, His Grace Madhu Pandit Dasa said, “We are thankful to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, and all the State Governments for providing us this opportunity to serve children.” He thanked the Government of India and all the respected jury members for recognizing Akshaya Patra’s efforts to support the education of children in government and government-aided schools every school day.
On the occasion, His Grace Madhu Pandit Dasa reiterating the commitment to address classroom hunger in the country, said, “I feel blessed, humbled and honoured to be a part of this alliance that reaches out to over 1.76 million children with quality, nutritious, and tasty mid-day meals, thus providing them an incentive to come to school. It is the collective effort of all our stakeholders that has made this possible.”
He also congratulated Sulabh International, Ekal Abhiyan Trust, Vivekananda Kendra and Mr. Yohei Sasakawa for being bestowed the award at this event.