India Post News Service
COLUMBUS, OHIO: The Akshaya Patra Foundation held its Virtual Gala called ‘Recipe for Change’ with Boman Irani, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Vinita Bali on Saturday, June 20th, to raise funds for feeding migrant families and school children in India. The organization has served over 65 million meals to migrant workers since India’s lockdown began and feeds 1.8 million Indian children every day during the school year. Close to 1,000 businesses, non-profits, government officials, philanthropic leaders, and fans from around the world attended and supported the organization’s dual mission of addressing childhood hunger and promoting education for underserved children in India.
The evening was hosted by famed celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, who led the conversation with India’s beloved actor Boman Irani and India’s top leaders in business, Ms. Vinita Bali. Sanjeev Kapoor is an Indian celebrity chef and entrepreneur best known for his hit TV show Khana Khazana, which is the longest-running show of its kind in Asia. Chef Kapoor is a brand ambassador for Akshaya Patra, attending many live events in 30 U.S. cities in the past and hosting Akshaya Patra’s events from his home in Mumbai, India. Chef Kapoor reminisced about his heartwarming experience driving an Akshaya Patra food delivery truck to a local school where he was greeted by hungry students who were thrilled to see the truck bring their lunch. Chef Kapoor stated, “I have given joy through food to many celebrities but I can tell you that if I were to remember one single meal that gave me joy, it was when I saw the excitement and joy of that [Akshaya Patra] truck [and being greeted by the children].”
Boman Irani, versatile film and theater actor, voice-over artist, and photographer, who is widely known for his comedic and villain roles in Bollywood joined the event alongside Kapoor. While he shared personal and professional anecdotes from his life, his message of working hard to accomplish your dreams could be heard throughout. After his dream of making it in Bollywood came true, Mr. Irani went to a restaurant in Dubai and was pained to see untouched food being thrown into the garbage. He stated, “If we have a voice, we have to use that voice” and credits that unfortunate sight of food wastage as the reason he is vocal about the important work that Akshaya Patra does.
Vinita Bali, one of the most powerful women in Indian business, joined the virtual stage along with Kapoor and Irani to bring yet another perspective to the evening. Ms. Bali is a global business leader who has held principal positions at corporate giants like Britannia, Coca-Cola, and Cadbury. Ms. Bali is also a passionate trailblazer for maternal and child health globally. While making connections of food wastage and loss on global and local scales, Ms. Bali stated that “there are 120 million children who are fed in school every day [in India], for so many children, that’s the only hot meal that they get in 24 hours…whilst food is fun, food is sharing, food brings families together, I think if we can think about all those moments that people like us are fortunate enough to have, there are so many others who don’t. And if we can just make a small contribution, it makes a very big difference.”
The endearing energy between the three speakers was palpable, marked by fluid conversations about their own relationship to food, a quick acoustic guitar performance by Mr. Irani, and a live Q&A with the audience. Along with captivating conversations between three change makers, the evening consisted of talented musical performers who are a part of the Akshaya Patra family. Agney Mulay, a musician trained at the Berklee College of Music, shared soundscapes with his vocals and instrumentals, and Baljinder Singh, famously known as Ballu Flute, transported us back to India with his soulful rendition of old Bollywood music.
The food-themed evening celebrated the beneficiaries, volunteers, chapter teams from Buffalo, Columbus, DC, Grand Rapids, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia who continue to work towards alleviating classroom hunger. Additionally, donors are continuing to match donations up to $150,000 for COVID-19 relief and alleviating classroom hunger. Further information can be found on the website.
Established in 2000, Akshaya Patra is the largest NGO-run school meal program in the world, according to Time Magazine, and serves 1.8 million children daily in over 19,257 schools through 55 kitchens in 12 states and two Union Territories in India. It costs only $20 to feed a child for an entire school year. For more information contact: Ankita Narula, [email protected] or Geeta Kulkarni, [email protected]