Akshaya Patra Foundation USA holds fundraising gala

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Akshaya Patra Team – Photo Credit Akshaya Patra

The Akshaya Patra Foundation USA, alongside its Tri-State chapters, hosted its end-of-year Gratitude Gala on November 20, 2021, at the Hilton in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal, addressing the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA Gratitude Gala Nov. 20, 2021, held in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

At the New Jersey event, hundreds of supporters of this premiere non-profit gathered to celebrate and open their wallets to give generously to a program that feeds 1.8 million school children in India daily.

Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh with Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande, chairman emeritus of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA at the Nov. 20, 2021, at the Gratitude Gala, speaking to ITV Gold host Aditi Lamba. (Photo: ITV Gold)
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Dr. Rachana Kuklarni, member of the Board of Trustees of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA, announced at the gala that an amount of $3.5 million had been raised.

The Gratitude Gala also included a group of high-profile speakers and entertainment including Indra Nooyi (former chairman & CEO of PepsiCo), fashion designer Anita Dongre, Dr. George M. Abraham, president of American College of Physicians, and Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande, emeritus chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation. Entertainers included actor Omi Vaidya and singer-songwriter Sparsh Shah.

India’s Consul General in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, speaking at the event, said what Akshaya Patra did reminded him of a Zulu saying in South Africa – ‘giving is receiving’. He also promised the full support of the Government of India for Akshaya Patra’s initiatives, and said during the @75 Independence Day celebrations of India, Akshay Patra’s grassroots stories would be publicized as well.

“Three cheers for Akshaya Patra. May you feed millions more,” Jaiswal said.

Dr. George M. Abraham, president of the American College of Physicians, speaking at the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA Gratitude Gala Nov. 20, 2021, held in East Brunswick, New Jersey. (Photo: ITV Gold)

Keynote Speaker Dr. George Abraham, told ITV Gold, he feels that the education of women and children is vital. “It is a good thing to provide the connection of food to education. But education of female children is very important,” he said.

Dr. Kulkarni told ITV Gold that the future of any country, and the future of any civilization, is education, something Akshaya Patra makes possible through its school meals program, which helps “The kids, and the girls, to say in the school system, and that gives them an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, and do better for themselves and their family.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh and Dr. Sudha Parikh at the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA Gratitude Gala Nov. 20, 2021, held in East Brunswick, New Jersey. (Photo: ITV Gold)

One could start by helping even one child’s meals for a year in India by giving just $20 she noted. “I can guarantee it’s the best return on investment,” she said.

Naveen Goel, incoming CEO of Akshaya Patra Fdn. USA, said the gala was to show appreciation for supporters, but also a fundraising event. His own passion was to take care of the children and of hunger. He said the goal in the ultimate analysis, was to make Akshay Patra non-existent.

“Our real goal is to obviate ourselves. Because there will be no need for Akshaya Patra if there was no hunger and people in schools could do their education without need us.” And he added while the goal was to feed 5 million people by 2025, it was ‘zero some day down the road.”

Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of ITV Gold, told the news outlet he has been associated with Akshaya Patra since the inception of the USA chapter 20 years ago. “This is the best initiative where you are attracting all the young school-going children to the school, for education, but also providing to each, a hot meal,” he noted. “Once you educate a child you educate a family,” he said, promising that his media group would do all it could to promote the work of Akshaya Patra. Citing his personal experience of being given his education by his father, a government employee, which allowed him to become a doctor and come to the U.S., practice the medical profession, but also acquire a media company. “This media acquisition is not for business, it is simply to empower the second and third generations, and to relay the thoughts of our first generation,” said Dr. Parikh.

Attendees at the Gala. (Photo: ITV Gold)

Akshaya Patra Chairman Shiva Shivaram, noted in his interview with ITV Gold, that the program in India also requires for Akshaya Patra to be financially more capable of expanding its reach. Akshaya Patra’s mission is simple – ‘No Child Goes To School Hungry.’

“We want people to realize how important the work we are doing for children in India is,” he said. “We want all people to get involved, and not limit ourselves to high-impact people. We want grassroots involvement,” he said.

Shivaram explained how Akshaya Patra works with the Government of India to feed children in government schools. “The government allows us the leverage to be able to feed a child for a whole year in $20, said Shivaram, by matching the amount in rice and grains, and making sure standards are adhered to in nutritional and quality terms.

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