BURLINGAME, California — The Bay Area chapter of Akshaya Patra raised $250,000 to support its mid-day meal program at a Sept. 25 gala here, attended by around 250 guests.
The India based non governmental organization runs the world’s largest secular mid-day meal program in collaboration with fourteen state governments in India. It serves nutritious and sumptuous mid-day meals to 1.8 million government school kids six days a week.
“The Covid pandemic taught us to innovate. Before the pandemic, we were very reliant on the school settings to provide the mid-day meals to the children. We are now better prepared to respond and react to catastrophes,” said Navin Goel, CEO of Akshaya Patra, USA.
Food Program Expands To Uttar Pradesh
New kitchens in Ghaziabad and Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh are in the pipeline. “Uttar Pradesh state government really wants us. The state government and the people are ready to give us more schools and we have the means to take them on,” said Goel. “Ours is a public-private partnership. We have to navigate bureaucracy and slow accounts receivables processes that put pressure on us to perform.”
“The Bay Area is our best chapter. This community’s giving is the highest of all chapters, making the US the single largest funder, accounting for 25 percent of Akshaya Patra’s funding,” said the CEO.
Siva Sivaraman, Chairman of the foundation in his keynote said: “Philanthropy is not easy. While individual giving to a village or town that you come from is great, India is a huge country. A non profit that has the structure, scale and the ability to deliver makes it very impactful.”
New Bay Area Chapters
“Involvement of not just high net worth individuals but people at the grassroots is our goal in all chapters. Instead of just one large chapter in the Bay Area, we are going to be having three chapters: one in San Francisco, the current Bay Area one and in the tri valley region of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore to involve people in all those areas too,” said Sivaraman.
Srivatsan Rajan, Vice Chairman of Akshaya Patra, led a panel discussion featuring three venture capitalists who shared their philosophy of philanthropy.
Why Choose India?
Ashu Garg, General Partner with Foundation Capital, has volunteered with Akshaya Patra for more than 20 years. “We started small in our involvement with Akshaya Patra and have gradually increased our contribution. For us as first-generation Indians living in the Bay Area, I feel our primary charitable giving should be back to India because most of us got highly subsidized education there that has enabled us to succeed in life,” he said during the panel discussion.
Ramesh Srinivasan, President and CEO at Agilysys said: “People like me have been extremely lucky in life. I came from a lower middle-class family in India. Luck is other people helping you. Sometimes you know and sometimes you don’t.”
Feeding Hearts, Feeding Minds
“For a long time, charity used to be a quiet thing for me, but a friend suggested that it is important to make noise and put one’s name to something that one feels should be promoted to inspire others. It bothers me a lot to imagine children going hungry. I can accept a lot of other wrongs in life, but not child going hungry,” said Srinivasan during the discussion.
Pooja Malik of Nipun Capital, said: “I came from a middle-class family in India but saw my parents give whatever informally and formally. I lost that giving feeling for some time when we came here and were busy establishing our lives in a new land.”
“But then via the community here, we got introduced into Akshaya Patra. It had to be a cause that resonated with me and Akshaya Patra’s mission appealed to our hearts. As a parent it breaks my heart to even think about a child going hungry,” said Malik.