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Organisation Plans to Feed a Million Children By 2010

by Praveen Bose / Bangalore

Posted August 30, 2007

Akshaya Patra Foundation ties up with retail majors to support expansion. A flurry of activities begin in the kitchens of Akshaya Patra around 3 am. The grain and pulses are washed and cleaned before being loaded into huge stainless steel containers. The quantities are huge. However, the process takes barely 15 minutes, thanks to the highly mechanised cauldrons, which have the capacity to cook 100 kg dal and 250 kg vegetables in minutes. Akshaya Patra, the school mid-day meal scheme of the Akshaya Patra Foundation of Iskcon, now covers nearly 800,000 children in about 3,000 government schools in 12 locations across India. "We are set to cross the one million mark by 2010," said Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice-chairman, Akshaya Patra Foundation. In order to support its expanded form, Akshaya Patra has already signed agreements with big retail stores to fulfil its vegetable and pulses needs.

It is getting vegetables from Safal, the brand of the National Dairy Development Board. "The NGO is now tying up with Reliance Fresh for supply of vegetables," an Iskcon official said. The weekly menu for mid-day meals comprises rice, sambhar, curd, rasam, a rice preparation (puliogre/tomato rice/ bisibele bath (a popular rice preparation) and sweet pongal (a dessert made of rice, ghee and dry fruits). The cost of providing the wholesome meal comes to around Rs 4.50 per child, with around Rs 2 as subsidy from the government which comes in kind. The project budget is around Rs 20 crore per annum. "The foundation is sensitive to local tastes. While the meal in the South includes sambar, rice and curd, in the North it includes chapati, dal and a vegetable," said Chanchalapathi Dasa. Akshaya Patra has been expanding at a fast pace since its launch in 2000. Initially started in Karnataka, it is spreading its operations to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Gujarat. It has invitations from other states too. Click Here

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