Food being served to students

The NGO has touched and transformed lakhs of student lives in the state and across the country.

Among non-profit organisations in the country, The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) has a different tale to tell. Drawing back their prime inspiration towards providing annadana at ISKCON temple in the city, the goodness of serving food to the needy got a boost when like-minded philanthropists came together to use the capacities and facilities at the temple to eliminate hunger among students in government schools in the state.

From humble beginnings of extending the reach of food charity to 1,400 children in 2000, the NGO has touched and transformed lakhs of student lives in the state and across the country.

Akshaya Patra kitchen
Sambar being prepared in the kitchen​

With an outreach of more than 1.7 million students at 14,264 schools across 42 locations in 12 states in India, the initiative claims to be the world's largest not-for-profit mid-day meal programme. It foresaw the importance of countering malnutrition to support the right to education of children from socio-economically underprivileged children.

It gained more strength after a Supreme Court mandate in 2001, said Ajay Kavishwar, Director, PR, Planning and Advocacy, TAPF, as he shares the Akshaya Patra tale with Deccan Chronicle.

"The mandate passed on November 28, 2001 directing all government and government-aided primary schools in all states after Akshaya Patra was also called upon to provide testimonies to the apex court is a remarkable milestone in our journey to reaching out to more," he said.

Elaborating on the current status of the organisation, he added that their state-of-the-art kitchens have become a subject of study attracting curious visitors from around the world.

Providing fresh and nutritious meals to school students on a daily basis since its inception, the organisation has also embraced technological advancements to multiply their reach both in terms of quality and quantity.

"While we ensure compliance towards matching with mid-day meal guidelines provided by the central and state governments, each meal that we provide goes through a testing phase to guarantee it reaches up to the level of our research-based computed nutritional values. Our in-house laboratories, which include highly qualified professionals on full time duty, holds equal responsibility in guaranteeing quality," explained  Kavishwar.

Daily feedback which is collated from teachers from each school makes the process complete and error-free and waste-free, team TAPF added.

A pilot in its partnership with the state government, the organisation has introduced millets in their menu in a bid to enhance the nutritional intake of their beneficiaries. Partnering with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and also supporting the state government's campaign to promote smart foods, TAPF now provides more than 1,600 meals which include millets daily.

Believed to be ecologically viable and environmentally imperative, the new inclusion is expected to contribute to a better nutritional system for children and improved production for farmers as well.

Widening the horizons from staying true to their motto 'Unlimited Food for Education,' TAPF's new initiative titled 'Give Every Dream a Chance' aims to provide their student beneficiaries with stronger wings to chase their life aspirations.

"We began this initiative in 2016 as an added outreach programme with the beneficiaries with uncommon dreams, enabling them to interact with the best mentors from their respective industry domains to get a taste of the real world. The valuable success of the programme pushed us to enhance the capacity to 300 last year as we encouraged skill and natural talent with adequate training and confidence-building sessions," explained Kavishwar.

The growing platform is expected to include 5,000 students from six different states in the country this year embarking on using the most of the positive intention in better nation-building, according to strategy planners at the Foundation.

The Foundation which has also received several national and international awards and recognitions over the years is now striving towards providing 5 million mid-day meals in India by 2020. While improving and diversifying the meal experience and taking it to higher standards is a comprehensive plan TAPF is gradually putting into practice, transforming the society is their highest objective.

"To transform a student, we need to transform the school. With more than 6,600 welfare and development-minded individuals working daily towards bettering the society, and in turn, the country, the responsibility of continuing our endeavour forever is the main responsibility we shoulder everyday," concluded Kavishwar.

Transparency, credibility and trust-worthiness is upheld at TAPF as they partner several state governments in their daily undertakings for a healthy and educated citizenry for generations to come.

Source: DECCAN CHRONICLE             Date: Aug 6, 2018