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Akshaya Patra Celebrates Crossing The One Million Mark At Benefit Event

Kathleen Cosgrove

The Akshaya Patra Foundation hosted a successful One Million Mark Celebration on Sunday, October 4 at the Marriott Hotel in Burlington. The event recognized the organization meeting its first milestone of feeding one million children daily a year ahead of schedule.

The sold out event attracted over 400 community leaders from diverse professions. The festivities brought in not only long-time supporters, but also many people experiencing their first introduction to Akshaya Patra. Madhu Sridhar, President and CEO of Akshaya Patra, received a thunderous applause when she shared with the crowd that Akshaya Patra is now feeding 1,070,969 children each day in close to 6,000 schools through 17 kitchens in seven states in India. Her announcement of the organization’s next milestone, to feed five million children by 2020, was received with an equally enthusiastic response.

The event featured a rousing speech from Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Board Chair of Akshaya Patra USA, who emphasized how Akshaya Patra is making a major social impact in India by adopting for-profit practices and rigor, and the importance of supporting the organization.

Meera Bhan and Seo-Yeun Choi, two young students, inspired the audience by sharing their efforts and their involvement with Akshaya Patra.  Bhan, an eighth grader at the Pike School in Andover, learned about Akshaya Patra from her local newspaper. She wrote letters to her family and friends this past summer about the organization and raised $7,000 for the children. Choi, a student at the Brooks School in North Andover, spent four months last year in a study abroad program visiting Visakapatnam. After her visit, Choi decided to raise funds for Akshaya Patra by selling bangles that she had brought back from India to benefit Akshaya Patra. She plans to continue her fundraising drive this year by selling headbands.

Azim Jamal, the author of the newly released book The Power of Giving, gripped the audience with his personal stories and inspirational message of how giving back enriches us all.

The event raised close to $300,000. Over $100,000 of the pledges made during the evening will be matched by the Global FoodBanking Network, an organization with a mission of eradicating hunger worldwide.  The Global FoodBanking Network is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to creating, supplying and strengthening food banks and food bank networks throughout the world.

The evening was also filled with several performances from local artists. Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai’s graceful and powerful dance interpretation of the Akshaya Patra story written by Jon Lipsky, a professor of Theater at Boston University and a playwright, mesmerized the audience. The talented students of The Tarangini Creations School of Dance performed a dance combined with passion and energy.   Mohan Subramaniam and Meena Sundaram sang classic Bollywood songs, taking the audience down memory lane with their melodies.

“As we rejoice in reaching our first milestone we also recognize that in order to maintain this program each of us must stay committed to these children both in good and bad economic times,” said Madhu Sridhar, Akshaya Patra USA’s President and CEO. “We are grateful to see such enthusiasm build around our shared vision of eradicating hunger and promoting education simultaneously. This celebration was a celebration of the children.”

About Akshaya Patra

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest NGO-run midday meal program, feeding over one million children each day in close to 6,000 schools through 17 kitchens in seven states in India. A public-private partnership, Akshaya Patra 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 school year. With an average government subsidy of 50 percent, $28 feeds two children. This meal gives these children 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.

Akshaya Patra’s kitchens are specially designed by engineers to leverage technology. The organization also sources its food stocks from local markets, thereby reducing 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 can be accomplished when the public sector, private sector and the civic society collaborate-- a cost effective, scalable solution with high quality service delivery. After reaching its goal of feeding one million children each school day, Akshaya Patra’s next milestone is to serve 5 million children daily by 2020. For more information, please visit www.foodforeducation.org.

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Group shot

Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai

Azim Jamal

Meera Bhan

Seo-Yeun Choi

The Tarangini Creations School of Dance

Desh Deshpande, Chris Robstock, Madhu Sridhar, Santhana Krishnan

Apurv Gupta, Niru Bhatia, Manju Sheth, Dr. Khan

Adi Guzdar, Madhu Sridhar, Rutti Guzdar, Meenakshi Verma Agrawal

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