Akshaya Patra USA’s Bay Area Volunteer Chapter held its 2015 Bay Area Benefit Event, Sept. 20, in San Mateo, Calif., with nearly 350 supporters present. T.V. Mohandas Pai, co-founder of Akshaya Patra India, gave the keynote address for the event. Arvind Gupta, Head of Technology for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Founder Member of Digital India, also spoke at the event. The event raised $300,000, enough to provide hot, nutritious meals to 20,000 children for a year, and is on target to meet its annual fundraising goal for the Bay Area of $500,000.
The event began with a welcome note by B.V. Jagadeesh, a board member of Akshaya Patra, followed by an address by the chief guest, Arvind Gupta, head of technology of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Their kitchens are very impressive, but you have to see the whole supply chain. From the kitchen to the school, when the children consume, Akshaya Patra has really transformed the kids’ experience to going to school,” Gupta told the audience.
“The prime minister talks about three important things; skills, scale and speed, and I think all the e-commerce companies in India that are valued at billions can learn from Akshaya Patra,” he said. “The scale in which they are doing, the speed and food has to reach in time… and, of course, the skills which it is imparting so it really ties in with the vision of the government.”
In addressing the gathering, Mohandas Pai delivered an inspiring keynote, focused on the mission of Akshaya Patra of simultaneously addressing childhood hunger and education. Pai began by presenting facts about the correlation between malnutrition and school attendance and described what prompted him to think about the issue and suggest to co-founder Madhu Pandit Dasa in 2000 that delivering food at schools was a great way to tackle the problem. Pai said, “India’s problem is the deep poverty that you have, the lack of delivery and the understanding of the scale and depth of this issue,” adding, “We have proven that this problem can be solved if all citizens come together and participate and believe that every child is our child.”
The Akshaya Patra Bay Area Chapter raised $300,000 at the San Mateo event, enough to provide hot, nutritious meals to 20,000 children for a year, and is on target to meet its annual fundraising goal for the Bay Area of $500,000.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the largest NGO-run school meal program in the world and serves over 1.4 million children daily in over 11,600 schools through 24 kitchen locations in ten states in India. Akshaya Patra serves hot school meals to India’s most vulnerable children. Many of these children come from struggling families whose norm is for children to have to work to help put food on the table. Akshaya Patra’s school meals are a welcome relief for these families and empowers them to promote their children’s educations.
Emily Rosenbaum, CEO of Akshaya Patra reflected on the unique impact of the program saying, ” At the Akshaya Patra kitchen in Jaipur, I met Kajal Dixit from the Gandhinagar Girls School and with unbounded pride she announced to me her plans to become a doctor. Told that the family was too poor to have her attend school rather than work, Kajal was armed with the argument of a hot mid-day meal. ‘Look at me now, I used to be skinny and now I am healthy!’ Kajal boasted. Because of the Akshaya Patra meal at school, Kajal and brothers and sisters now attend school every day.
Akshaya Patra is feeding the dreams and nourishing the bodies of about one and a half million children in India every day and scaling each year to reach a goal of 5 million children daily. Akshaya Patra has made it easy and attainable for us all to participate since just one nickel from a donor creates a mid-day meal. Now, we can all come together to ensure the birthright of food and education and with it all of their potential is realized for every child.”
Akshaya Patra’s Bay Area Chapter is always expanding with new volunteer members. Geeta Kulkarni, director of development for West Coast, works alongside the volunteers to spread awareness and raise funds for mid-day meals in San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Individuals looking to get involved with Chapter or connect Akshaya Patra to corporations or other organizations that can help, should contact Geeta atGeeta@apusa.org or 408-209-8368.
For more information on Akshaya Patra’s school meal program: www.foodforeducation.org