Akshaya Patra feeds 6.3-crore meals amid Covid-hit lockdown

Akshaya Patra feeds 6.3-crore meals amid Covid-hit lockdown

BENGALURU: With the profound message of Iskcon Founder Acharya Shrila Prabhupada that “no one should go hungry” as its motto, the country’s leading non-government organisation Akshaya Patra Foundation has served whopping 6.3-crore meals to the needy since the lockdown was enforced across the country on March 25 to contain the coronavirus spread.

“Till June 11, we have served 6.3 crores (63 million) meals to the people from vulnerable communities, including daily-wage earners, industrial workers, laborers at construction sites and others in 17 states across the country,” Foundation Vice-Chairman Chanchalapathi Dasa told IANS here.

The 6.3-crore meals include 3.4 crore freshly cooked dishes and 6,86,092 food relief kits, with essential groceries amounting to 2.8 crore servings.

Set up in this tech hub with former Infosys Director T.V. Mohandas Pai as its co-founder in 2000, the Foundation is the world’s largest non-for-profit run organisation that serves mid-day meal on school days to over 18-lakh children in 19,039 schools across 12 states in the sub-continent.

Madhu Pandit Dasa of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskon) is the founder of the two decades old Patra. “Our aim is to reduce the food insecurity during this pandemic outbreak as it heightens health risks for vulnerable under inadequacy of basic nutrients,” said Foundation’s chief executive Shridar Venkat.

Global software major Infosys’ co-founder N.R. Narayan Murthy, his wife Sudha Murthy and their family donated Rs 10 crore to enable the Foundation distribute 1.33-lakh food relief kits in various locations across the country.

“I hope the situation will improve soon and the people will get back to normal life. Till then, we will continue to feed as many people as possible,” said Dasa. The Foundation is serving meals cooked at its huge kitchens to the affected people In Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi (NCR), Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, and Uttar Pradesh.

“We have undertaken food assistance to support the government’s relief efforts to the needy, affected by the extended lockdown to curb the Covid-19 spread,” asserted Venkat. Food relief kits are also being distributed to the vulnerable communities in these states.

“The kits are based on the local palate of the region, with each of them having dry ration sufficient to cook 28 meals. The kits distributed in Bengaluru contain rice, tur dal (lentils), oil, spices, sambar and rasam powder and vegetables with longer shelf-life like potatoes and pumpkins,” said Venkat.

The Foundation is distributing food relief kits also in Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where it is building kitchens for the school feeding program. In Jharkhand, Punjab and West Bengal, the NGO is using its kitchens set up for cooking mid-day meals for school kids and local resources to feed the needy.

The Foundation has 52 kitchens in 12 states and 2 Union Territories across the country. Leading corporate, donors and volunteers have also been supporting the Foundation in the relief-feeding endeavour.

The Foundation has also received support of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms like General Mills (Mumbai), Britannia and Epigamia. Employees from corporate houses, Infosys Foundation, biotech firm Biocon, Home Guards and Civil Defence personnel and volunteer groups like Corona Warriors and Inspiring Indians have been helping with the packing and distribution of food relief kits in various locations.

“We have been able to serve over 6.3 crore meals to the needy during these difficult times due to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved, including the central and state governments and local civic bodies,” Dasa pointed out.

In the National Capital Region (NCR) Iskon’s Delhi centre has served 2.5-crore meals during the lockdown and still counting. “Though wearing mask and social distancing are necessary to help limit the virus spread, for lakhs of people food insecurity is much more serious issue, as they cannot afford to stock up food supplies,” said Iskcon Delhi’s in-charge Shrila Gopal Krishna Goswami.

Sensing that the economically weaker sections will grapple with food shortage of food in the wake of this nationwide lockdown, Goswami directed the centre’s volunteers to serve warm meals of Krishna prasadam to the needy.

“Our kitchens are run with all precautions as per the Union health ministry’s guidelines. The food is prepared daily in the hygienic way in compliance with the Covid-induced regulations,” said Goswami.

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