Even as Uttar Pradesh tries to tackle an abysmally high child malnutrition rate in the state, Akshaya Patra Fondation, the not for profit organization that runs the mid-day meal program for underprivileged school children has stepped in to help the beleaguered government.
Presently operational only in Vrindavan where its kitchen daily feeds 1.65 lakh children studying in 1633 government schools, Akshya Patra Foundation on Saturday announced plans to expand its operation in the state and set up kitchens in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Agra and Kannauj.
An estimated three crore children between 0-5 years have been found to be malnourished in Uttar Pradesh. An analysis done by the Mid-Day Meal committee on the implementation of the scheme for 2011-12 found that the coverage of the mid day meal scheme in Uttar Pradesh stood at 57 % -- much below the national average of 72 %.
“Once the kitchen becomes operational, we intend to feed 3.2 lakh underprivileged children daily in the state. It’s a big challenge and we are gearing up for it. The UP chief minister has assured us that his government will extend all support,” Madhu Pandit Dasa, chairman, Akshaya Patra Foundation told HT.
The foundation which started its operation from Bangalore way back in 2000 by providing mid-day meals to 1500 children in five schools has come a long way. Today, it runs the largest school lunch scheme in India, feeding 1.2 million children in eight states. It runs on a private public partnership model where it gets subsidized grains from the government and raises the rest of the required fund through donations.
Presently, Akshaya Patra runs its kitchen where mid day meals are cooked in clean and hygienic environs in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Assam and Uttar Pradesh. In July this year, the foundation served its billionth meal.
“The foundation focuses mainly on providing hot mid-day meal to children. Hunger is one of the biggest challenges facing India and we are doing our bit to tackle a part of the problem through this school lunch programme,” said TV Mohandas Pai, former director Human Resources at Infosys, who is now a member of the board of trustees of Akshaya Patra.
Pai said that Akshaya Patra’s target is to feed five million children by 2020.