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Nikki Panditi, who spent some time with Akshaya Patra’s food for education program in India, was motivated to continuing working with the foundation upon her return to the United States. She, along with several other students, came together and recently launched a student chapter in the Bay Area to promote awareness of Akshaya Patra’s mission, no child shall be deprived of education because of hunger, and raise funds for the children in India.

webonly_panditi_and_friends_insert_1“As students, it is really fulfilling to have the opportunity to be able to help other students reach their potential. The smiles of the children who I had the privilege of serving will stay in my heart”, remarked Panditi. Panditi, who spent the summer of 2011 volunteering in Hyderabad, India, also toured the local Akshaya Patra Foundation kitchen and visited the schools to assist in feeding the children. “Akshaya Patra provides meals that motivate children to attend school and thus receive an education”, she says.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is one of the world’s largest NGO-run midday meal programs. 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. 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. Currently, the foundation distributes freshly cooked, healthy meals to 1.3 million underprivileged children in 8,000 government schools through 18 kitchens in eight states in India daily.

Says Panditi, “Technology was used in ingenious ways to maximize the amount of clean, nutritious food the kitchen could produce. The school I visited was in the middle of an economically depressed slum area…we were really able to see what the midday meal from Akshaya Patra meant to [the children]. Children were thrilled with the fact that they could come back for seconds as much as they wanted to”.

The student chapter recently hosted a very successful chai and dessert social to benefit Akshaya Patra. With over 80 guests in attendance, support from local businesses, and speeches from members of the group, the chapter raised over $6,500, enough to feed 433 children for an entire school year. Says Panditi, “This event brought our community together for a great cause and we are so happy that we are able to make this contribution to the children of Akshaya Patra!”

President and CEO of Akshaya Patra USA, Madhu Sridhar, remarked, “Youth initiatives, like the chai and dessert social, are crucial to spreading the word about Akshaya Patra’s mission. Youth have historically been at the forefront of innovative social movements that have changed the world. It is heartwarming to see youngsters working selflessly to raise funds for their deserving counterparts in India.”

“As the technology side of India continues to flourish, Akshaya Patra reminds us that there are millions of underprivileged children in India that need both food and education to survive in this new economy”, stated Panditi. “It has been said that Akshaya Patra’s kitchens are a model of efficiency and charitable work that is worthy of being replicated around the world, and I have realized, after becoming familiar with the cause, that this is certainly true”.

Akshaya Patra’s next milestone is to serve 5 million children daily by 2020.Akshaya Patra Foundation USA office was established in 2006 with the goal of creating a support base by educating and informing the public in the US and beyond about the challenges of malnutrition, hunger and lack of equitable access to education facing underserved children in India.

Akshaya Patra USA aims to facilitate relationships between the organization and the donor community in the US, share the proven track record and scalable solution that the program has to offer, and facilitate developing a long-term plan for financial support and globally expand awareness of the organization, its school feeding model and the needs it addresses. To learn more about the Akshaya Patra Foundation please visit www.foodforeducation.org. For more information about Akshaya Patra or the student chapter event please contact Madhu Sridhar at 781-438-3090 or Madhu@akshayapatrausa.org.

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