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President-Elect Obama Praises Akshaya Patra

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation received a letter from President-elect Barack Obama praising the organization as “an imaginative approach that has the potential to serve as a model for other countries.”

The letter, written to Akshaya Patra USA President Madhu Sridhar on September 16 reads “Akshaya Patra has become the largest single feeding program in the world.”Akshaya Patra is the world's largest NGO run midday meal program and feeds over 966,000 underprivileged children daily in 5,600 schools in six states in India.

“I want to congratulate you and the people of the Akshaya Patra Foundation for the incredible progress you've made in feeding the children of India. Your use of efficient and innovative business practices to scale up in just a few years from feeding 1,500 school children daily to almost a million is a powerful demonstration of what's possible when people work together,” President-elect Obama writes in his letter. “Behavioral, emotional and academic problems are more prevalent among children with hunger. Hunger and malnutrition also make it much more difficult to fight AIDS and other public health challenges. By feeding children now, you are helping to avoid many negative consequences that would be much more difficult and expensive to address later on.”

“We are humbled by the recognition of our work by President-elect Obama,” said Sridhar. “This inspires us as we continue to carry out our mission of eradicating hunger and promoting education one child at a time. We hope Akshaya Patra serves as a global model that is a catalyst for innovation and a role model for the non-profits throughout the world.”

The congratulatory letter from President-elect Obama comes in the wake of several other honors and prizes Akshaya Patra recently received. In October, American Express and Yahoo each awarded grants to Akshaya Patra of $100,000 and $40,000 respectively.

The grant from American Express came after Akshaya Patra received over 10,000 votes in the final round of the Members Project competing against 1,200 other projects to secure $100,000 in funding. For the second year, the American Express Members Project accepted projects that are innovative, achievable and can make a positive impact in the world by touching the lives of people in a significant way. During the first round, a total of 213,522 people voted to nominate the project of their choice. Akshaya Patra came in third place for nominations received. A distinguished panel of judges in conjunction with American Express selected the top 25 projects. Projects were evaluated on various factors including the number of nominations received, a review of achievability and advisory panel scoring. American Express card holders voted during a second round of the process to narrow the field to five. Akshaya Patra was able to move on to the third and final round of voting, which ended October 13.

"This contest allowed us to galvanize our own personal networks - friends, family members, colleagues - and served as a great tool for raising awareness and visibility," said Sridhar. "Our sincere appreciation goes out to everyone who voted for their enthusiastic support. The funding from American Express will help advance our mission - No child shall be deprived of education because of hunger."

Akshaya Patra received a grant of $40,000 from the Yahoo! Employee Foundation. In each of the two cycles a year, the foundation awards only one grant of $40,000 and may split it between two or more organizations. The Yahoo! Employee Foundation is a grassroots philanthropic organization that brings together the talents, time and financial resources of Yahoo! employees. All the money is donated by employees and all activities are run by a volunteer committee of Yahoo! employees. This gives employees the opportunity to make a significant contribution to a cause or an organization they feel strongly about.

In order to be eligible for a grant, the recipient organization must be championed by a Yahoo! employee. Simmi Kokal, vice chair of Akshaya Patra’s Bay Area champions circle and Yahoo! employee nominated Akshaya Patra for the prize.

"Akshaya Patra gives a huge return on investment when I think of investment of my time as a volunteer and return as the impact that it has on lives of students in India,” said Kokal. “The project not only feeds children for today, it also prepares them for a good life tomorrow. Having personally seen the kitchen where the food is prepared and knowing how mindfully the whole process is managed, I was convinced that it was the right organization to champion for getting a grant from Yahoo!."

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest NGO midday meal program and feeds over 966,000 underprivileged children daily in 5,600 schools in six states in India.  Akshaya Patra is a public-private partnership that combines good management, innovative technology and smart engineering to deliver school lunch at a fraction of the cost of similar programs in other parts of the world. It costs $28 to feed a child daily for the entire year. For many of the children this is their only complete meal for the day. This gives them an incentive to come to school, stay in school and provides them with the necessary nutrients they need to develop their cognitive abilities to focus on learning.

Through kitchens specially designed by engineers to leverage technology and sourcing its food stocks from local markets, Akshaya Patra is able to reduce costs associated with transportation and food spoilage while supporting the local economy. In a short time, the foundation has grown to become the largest, and certainly most innovative, school lunch program in the world. Akshaya Patra is a great example of what a non-profit organization can achieve-- a cost effective, scalable solution with high quality service delivery. Akshaya Patra’s US offices are located in Stoneham, MA. For more information visit www.foodforeducation.org.

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