Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Feeding the masses

Today we traveled to Akshaya Patra, an organization that prepares mid-day meals for school-aged children around Bangalore.
Today we woke up very early. Before the sound of horns even, at least on our street.

We split into our vans for one of the last times, making sure to grab car snacks distributed by one of our amazing interns, now a friend.

We traveled to Akshaya Patra, an organization that prepares mid-day meals for school-aged children around Bangalore.

The mid-day meal program was established following the principals of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who saw children fighting with street dogs for scraps of food and declared that no child should go hungry or be deprived of education.

The program directly aims to do two things.
  • Encourage children to attend school by providing a free lunch for each child.
  • Provide a nutritious lunch!


The facility does this on an ultra efficient scale. Starting as early as 2 or 3 a.m., employees come to start prepping the food to be cooked.

Huge vats of government provided rice, market rice, daal, and vegetables come into the building to be used for the lunches. Starting at the fourth floor, food moves down through literal chutes, using gravity as a powerful food force.

The food is delivered to schools each day by 10 a.m. and requires no preparation before being served for lunch.

We know that kids who are hungry have a hard time focusing on their studies, which is why there are many programs in the U.S. to address nutrition in schools.

But beyond that, this program is addressing a more fundamental issue. Providing a meal at school creates an incentive beyond education for students - a free meal. Something that would otherwise need to be worked for, or even not available at all.

Akshaya Patra provides 1.2 million meals to students in 10 states in India. These meals cost roughly 7 rupees per child ($0.11 for those keeping track back home). This is split between government subsidies and funding done by Akshaya Patra.

The organization has seen measurable success through enrollment numbers. The mid-day meal program has been used to effectively encourage children to stay in school over the course of 15 years.

Akshaya Patra was eye-opening and a great example of how efficiency can create powerful social change.

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