Dec 9, 2008

India - Obama pat for free meal NGO


BANGALORE: These days Akshaya Patra, said to be the largest NGO-run free school meal programme in six states including Karnataka, proudly displays a laudatory letter from the darling of the world today-Barack Obama.

In a signed note sent to the head of Akshaya Patra office in Boston, he writes, "Your use of efficient and innovative business practices to scale up in just a few years from feeding 1500 school children daily to almost a million is a powerful demonstration of what's possible when people work together."

He also points out that the Akshaya Patra could serve as a model for other countries as well.

Its chairperson Madhu Pandit Das says, "We hope one day we will be able to showcase one of our large kitchens to Barack Obama and demonstrate how our governments and civil societies are working in partnership for the development of our children to bring about a transformation in the country." He says Obama learnt of the "free lunch" it provides to millions of poor school kids and he was mighty pleased.

Akshaya Patra spokesman in Bangalore told DNA on Tuesday the strength of the beneficiary kids has reached 9.73 lakhs as on today and its target of 1 million will be achieved by the New Year.The organization serves meal to the poor kids of government schools in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. In Karnataka, Aksha Patra has five major centres, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Hubli and Bellary.

Began in 2000, it now covered 5000 schools, mostly in semi-urban and rural areas. Last year the Harvard business school (HBS) students studied the mid-day meal scheme in urban centers of India, where food is cooked in a centralized modern kitchen and then distributed to thousands of schools within a few hours. The centralized kitchens are unique to urban centers as in rural areas the kitchens have been constructed in the schools itself. The HBS is reported to have resolved to introduce a paper for the first-year MBA students where the midday meal programme would be taught as a case study to educate them on precise time management.

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