gujarath akshaya patraAhmedabad: The Hare Krishna Movement, a manifestation of which is Iskcon, is preparing to provide meals to 1,00,000 poor schoolchildren in the state through the expansion of its Akshaya Patra initiative. In Gujarat, Akshaya Patra already offers meals to 4.5 lakh students every day in 1,500 state-run and municipal schools. As for the expansion, kitchens are under construction in Bhavnagar and Jamnagar and will be operational by Diwali, and will cater to 50,000 children each. Kutch, Junagadh, and Bharuch kitchens will be ready in another year.

Raya Rama Dasa, who represents the movement, described the genesis of the Akshaya Patra mission. "Some time in the 1970s, the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, saw a few street kids scrounging for leftover food in Kolkata," he said. "The Acharya was shaken by the sight and resolved to do something." The sight must have been particularly disturbing because stray dogs had been competing for food with the children.

The movement strives to offer both knowledge and compassion, so the Acharya's desire to battle hunger began soon after the spirit-jarring experience. And in the year 2000, the Bangalore branch of Iskcon made the diverse efforts of the movement in this endeavour coalesce formally, and Akshaya Patra was born.

The Hindu maxim "Annam Para Brahma" holds layers of metaphysical meanings. But its simplest reading suggests that Food is Vital Force. Akshaya Patra's campaign, paying equal heed to wisdom and kindness, is an exemplar of that maxim. "We began by serving meals to 1,500 children in three schools in Bangalore," Raya Rama Dasa said. "Today, we touch 15 lakh students across the nation in 11,000 schools in 10 states, including Gujarat, Karnataka, UP, and Odisha." Akshaya Patra runs on the private-public partnership model with the central and state governments providing up to 70% of the necessary funds.

In Gujarat, Akshaya Patra covers Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat, and Vadodara districts. In Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar cities, 1.4 lakh children in 524 schools get daily meals. "Our menus reflect local preferences," Raya Rama Dasa said.

Source: The Times of India        Dated: Aug 09, 2016