In this photo taken on May 19, 2015, a volunteer serves lunch, organized by the non-profit Akshaya Patra Foundation, to schoolgirls at Chaumuha Primary School on the outskirts of Vrindavan, U.P. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
On June 13, at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in Bristol, the BBC World Service Global Champion Award was presented to Akshaya Patra – the world’s largest charity-run school meals project. This is the third year The Food Chain has presented its Global Champion Award. It looks for a person or project who is changing the way we produce, process, consume or even think about food for the better.
Head judge, Iranian-American writer, chef and Netflix star Samin Nosrat said: “There is nothing more important to me than getting children fed. There are so many studies have proven that this is fundamental. I’m really moved by getting school lunches paid for in the States and so to see it being done on such a large scale and in such an incredible way by Akshaya Patra – that was a really moving and powerful thing to see.”
Akshaya Patra believes that no child should be deprived of education because of hunger. It recognises that children may forego education to do menial jobs to earn enough money to eat, and even if they do make it to the classroom, an empty stomach can make it hard to concentrate. It started its midday meals programme almost 20 years ago. Back then it provided 1,500 free school lunches every day. Today it feeds 1.76 million children all over India with hot, freshly prepared meals. For many children this will be their main source of nutrition and keep them in education.
Akshaya Patra were selected from nominations sent in by the World Service audience from every continent, and were awarded the prize by an international panel of judges.
Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra said: “It’s a matter of great pride for us to be selected for this award. I would like to thank the BBC World Service, on behalf of 1.75 million children whom we serve every day, day after day. Thank you so much.”
Stephen Titherington, Senior Commissioning Editor, BBC World Service, said: “Akshaya Patra is a great winner, and we’re so glad the competition has had such support from the public and from the judges. The need to understand the difficulties for many of finding enough to eat is crucial; understanding the economics and the politics of food is a vital part of understanding the world.”
Full list of judges:
- Gaggan Annand – Indian chef and owner of the world-famous Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.
- Arnold Kreilhuber – Deputy Director of UN Environment’s Law Division in Nairobi, Kenya
- Mavis Nduchwa, CEO of Chabana Farms – which champions organic farming in Botswana
- Marion Nestle – an American author and academic specialising in food politics.
- And our head judge – Samin Nosrat – an Iranian-American writer, chef and star of Netflix series, Salt Fat Acid Heat.
- Lucy May – founder of The Organic Cookery School
- Akshaya Patra – India – a charity-run school lunch programme, providing free meals to more than 1.7million school children in India.
- Richard Swannell – development director at WRAP, a UK charity aiming to reduce waste across a range of sectors. Richard has persuaded many supermarkets, manufacturers and suppliers – to sign up to voluntary agreements to waste less food.
- CGIAR – the world’s largest international agricultural research for development partnership. It’s active in 70 countries on four continents, with projects ranging from the international rice research institute based in the Philippines, to the world potato centre in Peru.
- Food 4 Education – a non-profit organisation which provides heavily-subsidised meals at primary schools in Nairobi, Kenya.