The Akshay Patra Foundation, known to feed underprivileged children studying in government schools in 12 states of Bharat, was faced with some existential challenges last year when controversial journalists like Faye D’Souza targeted the ISKCON-established NGO by labelling the Sanatan practices followed in its mid-day meal program as ‘Brahmanical imposition’ on Bharatiya children.
The meals served by Akshay Patra are nutrient-rich, but as they prepare it in Satvik manner, avoiding the use of onion and garlic is what riled up the Mirror Now journalist. She questioned the absence of non-veg food/eggs in Akshay Patra’s menu, denigrating the meals as ‘tasteless’ and with little nutritional value. Not sure if the anchor, well-known for her barely concealed Hinduphobia, would have preferred Bharatiya school-children served beef for lunch in schools, but with her targeting of Akshay Patra for no valid reason, she ended up making a farce of herself.
Much like the liberal, self-assigned ‘secular’ Faye D’Souza, The Hindu newspaper, an irony given its name, is notorious for its anti-Hindu stance. They too had carried out a smear campaign against the charitable foundation. “Akshaya Patra Foundation’s refusal to include onions and garlic in its mid-day meals in government schools raises concerns over the imposition of upper-caste food habits on pupils of poor and lower-caste backgrounds,” they stated in an article used to frivolously attack the services of the foundation.
After a lot of altercations and debates, it was revealed that the foundation had obtained government exception from the use of onion and garlic in its menu. Commissioner for Public Instruction, K.G. Jagadeesha, stated in a Press Conference that “The foundation has already taken permission from the government for its menu.” He added that the National Institute of Nutrition cleared the food provided by the foundation for being compliant with nutritional guidelines of 450 kcal energy and 12 gm protein for lower primary students and 700 kcal with 20 gm protein for upper classes, mandated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
The Akshay Patra Foundation derived its name from the inexhaustible pot Shri Krishna had presented to Draupadi during the exile of the Pandavas, with a promise that the pot would keep producing unlimited food to fill all stomachs till Draupadi had finished her meal. Headquartered in Bengaluru, the NGO aims at eliminating classroom hunger by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in as many government and government-aided schools as possible, and they have been focusing all their efforts towards this mission since 2000.
The Akshay Patra Foundation has now grown to become the world’s largest NGO Mid-Day Meal Programme serving nutritious food every school day to over 1.8 million students from 19,039 schools across 12 states & 2 Union territories of Bharat, prepared in 52 kitchens.
The foundation has not kept its battle against hunger limited to children in schools but taken it to newer arenas where their need was felt. Knowing how nutrition is significant during the formative years, the foundation also serves meals to 1,35,612 children aged 3 to 6 years at over 5900 Anganwadi centers spread across ten locations in four states of the country. Over 3,660 pregnant women and lactating mothers in 323 centers in Jaipur are also benefitted by the services of the Akshay Patra Foundation.
Akshay Patra has also done a stellar job during the Covid-19 crisis.
“When the lockdown to contain COVID-19 outbreak was announced, vulnerable communities were among the most affected. We started working with State Governments and civic bodies to provide relief. With the support of various government agencies, partners, donors, volunteers, and well-wishers, we started serving freshly cooked meals,” informed Vice-Chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation, Chanchalapathi Dasa.
As the country reels under a global pandemic, the NGO is working with the government to distribute cooked food and relief kits. They have are provided kits to migrant workers, unemployed, or people who have lost employment due to the lockdown and are unable to care for their families across Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, NCR, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. They have also supplied meals to quarantine facilities and on-duty medical staff in Bhilwara and Pune.
For its Hindu beliefs and Sanatani roots, the NGO has been attacked by agencies of evangelism, posing as activists and journalists. Despite the numerous conspiracies hatched to shut it down, the foundation named after Shri Khrisna’s pot is feeding millions of hungry and underprivileged throughout Bharat.
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