The Akshaya Patra Foundation has taken COVID-19 response initiative in 17 states and two union territories in association with the Government of India, State Governments, UT Administrations and civic authorities.
Published on December 20, 2020 at 3:17 pm
Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:50 am
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is serving vulnerable populations affected by the containment measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in India. It is undertaking this initiative in 17 states and two union territories in association with the Government of India, State Governments, UT Administrations and civic authorities. Leveraging the Foundation’s existing state-of-the-art kitchens across India, freshly cooked meals are served with the help of volunteers who maintain social distancing. Simultaneously, food relief kits are being distributed to the vulnerable communities in these states.
As of 7th June 2020, Akshaya Patra and its supporting organisations have served over 62 million meals to the people from vulnerable communities, such as daily-wage earners, industrial workers, labourers at construction sites, etc. These include 33 million freshly cooked meals and 6,77,501 food relief kits with essential groceries, amounting to over 28 million meal servings. This initiative is being undertaken in association with various State Governments and local administrations.
Speaking with The Good Sight, Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said, “With the number of people affected by food and nutrition insecurity expected to rise drastically in the post-COVID world, we will continue to support the Government’s efforts to address the issue to the best of our capability. We understand that the Mid-Day Meal Programme, in particular, will play a crucial role in the immediate future and therefore, will strive to upgrade it with evidence-based solutions focusing on the well-being of children. Furthermore, we will continue to partner with various organisations and agencies to contribute to food and nutrition security of children and communities in the post-COVID world.”
Kits of hope
The plight of the migrant labourer in the face of the nationwide lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us face to face with the idea of having a home and the far that mankind would go to reach that familiar destination. While some decided to traverse the distance by foot and others hitchhiked on lorries and trucks, many stayed behind.
On 14th February 2020, 19 men from MV 78 village of Malkangiri district, Odisha, arrived in Bangalore. A native from their village had found them employment as contract labourers in Electronic City and the promise of more money for their families back home propelled them here. But no one was prepared for what would happen next.
On 24th March 2020, a nationwide lockdown was initiated to curb the spread of COVID-19. Overnight, the lives of scores of citizens came to a complete standstill.
“When the lockdown was initiated, I cannot explain how scared we were,” says Prahalad Biswas. “Work had ceased and we couldn’t go outside to get food. All of us were left wondering where would we live, what would we eat and how would we survive?”
A friend of Biswas, Bapi Bagchi, connected him with Akshaya Patra’s relief feeding efforts, under which migrant workers, rough sleepers and citizens from economically disadvantaged households were being provided freshly cooked meals and food kits containing sufficient supplies for 42/28 meals.
Describing his heartfelt appreciation for the people at the Foundation who helped him and 29 other migrant workers at this dire time of need, Biswas says, “We had lost the will to live but Akshaya Patra revived us. I do not know how to thank them enough for whatever they have done for us. There are no words.”
Currently, Biswas and his companions are waiting to go back home. “We have never stayed away from home for so long. It has been four months. We miss the village.”
Despite the air of uncertainty that hangs around him, he is confident that the day will come when he can go back to the familiar roads of his village. “What is written in our fate will happen eventually,” he says.
Akshaya Patra is a not-for-profit organisation, which serves as the implementing partner of the Government of India’s flagship Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme. It is the world’s largest not-for-profit-run school lunch programme, serving wholesome food to over 1.8 million children across 12 states and 2 union territories in India.