The Akshaya Patra Foundation hosted its second annual Food for Education Benefit Event on  Sunday, March 6th at the India Community Center, Milpitas. The sold-out event included a keynote address by the world-renowned Dr. Deepak Chopra, member of the Advisory Board of Akshaya Patra USA. Chopra described Akshaya Patra’s service as “Love in Action,” in response to a question by a reporter.

The event attracted over 350 community leaders from diverse professions, bringing not only long-time supporters but many others who were being introduced to Akshaya Patra for the first time. Desh Deshpande, chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA, shared how the groundbreaking model is leveraging technology to ensure that hunger is not a barrier to education by providing nutritious meals to desrving schoolchildren in India. Fully automated kitchens, leveraging the most modern technology, serve over 8,000 schools and 1.2 million children DAILY, at the incredibly low cost of $11.50 per child per year.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of the world’s largest NGO-run midday school meal programs, is 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 justs $31.50 to feed a child a hot freshly prepared meal daily for the entire school year. With an average government subsidy of 63 percent, $11.50 feeds a child for an entire year. 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 and focus on learning.

The organization sources its food stocks from local markets, thereby reducing costs associated with transportation and food spoilage while supporting the local economy. Meals are tailored for regional dietary preferences and varies between the Southern and Northern India.

The dinner served at the benefit event was very similar to a simple Akshaya Patra meal that is served to the children.The pledge drive for the evening was conducted by B.V. Jagadeesh. The Bay area community responded overwhelmingly to his call for action to support the deserving Akshaya Patra children, raising over $400,000 in a matter of minutes.“The Bay area folks resonated with the cause. Akshaya Patra offers a real possibility of transforming lives and restoring hope for these deserving children,” said Madhu Sridhar, President & CEO of Akshaya Patra USA. “It is our collective challenge, our collective obligation, our collective responsibility and it will be our collective joy when we reach the next milestone and feed five million children by 2020”.

Vish Mishra and Sandhya Rao, Co-chairs of the SF Bay Area Chapter of Akshaya Patra led the efforts for this very successful benefit event. In a short time, the Akshaya Patra Foundation has grown to become the largest, and certainly the most innovative school lunch program in the world addressing simultaneously the twin challenges of hunger and access to education for deserving children. It 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.

Akshaya Patra’s next milestone is to serve 5 million children daily by 2020.

For more information, please visit www.foodforeducation.org or email tapf.info@akshayapatrausa.org.

Picture: Madhu Sridhar with Deepak Chopra.