Akshaya Patra Foundation’s four billion meal journey lauded at the United Nations

From left, Siva Sivaram, N. R. Narayana Murthy, Ruchira Kamboj, Madhu Pandit Dasa, Francine Pickup, Kailash Satyarthi, and Sri Chanchalapathi Dasa on April 2, 2024, at the Trusteeship Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters in New York. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

United Nations: In the midst of war and turbulence in many parts of the world, an Indian non-profit made a strong case for feeding children and educating them. Akshaya Patra Foundation, a highly successful mid-day meals program, that has experienced an extraordinary journey in feeding four billion cumulative meals globally, declared its readiness to impart its expertise to any nation looking to gain a pathway to alleviate hunger. Using cutting edge technology to implement large scale cooking and distribution networks, Akshaya Patra stands as a testament to what can be accomplished with will, commitment and dedication.

Founder and Chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Padma Shri recipient Madhu Pandit Dasa asserted, “Standing in this prestigious Hall of the United Nations, Akshaya Patra announces to the world its commitment to share its rich experience in the use of best of technology and logistics of large-scale cooking and distribution of food, with any organization in any part of the world to help them replicate this model to alleviate hunger,” adding “Akshaya Patra is most willing to go beyond the boundaries of India, driven by the passion of well-being for every citizen on this planet.”

Pandit Dasa was speaking at a special event “Achievements in Food Security: India’s Strides Towards Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs],” hosted by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations on April 2, 2024, at the Trusteeship Council Chamber in United Nations Headquarters. The event celebrated the Foundation’s achievement of serving four billion meals over the last 24 years and recognized India’s commitment to global food security and dedication in realizing the SDGs, particularly SDG-2 on Zero Hunger.

Founder and Chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Madhu Pandit Dasa delivering his address on April 2, 2024, at the Trusteeship Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters in New York. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Commending the ideology of integral humanism “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” of the Government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pandit Dasa said through this ideology “numerous policies and programs [were developed] aimed at alleviating hunger of those at the lowest economic sections of the society.”

Children enjoying a hot mid-day meal at a government school in India. Screenshot 2023-10-13 at 09-54-17 Non Profit Organization in USA Akshaya Patra Foundation USA

“This collaborative public private partnership with the Government has contributed towards not only eliminating classroom hunger, but also an improved learning ability, increased enrollment, retention of students in the schools and ultimately getting families out of the cycle of poverty…” Pandit Dasa added. “The goal of Zero Hunger is not merely an economic and organizational challenge, but it is also a challenge to find ways and means to infuse a universal spirit of compassion and sharing in the society beyond all religion, caste, [and] gender.”

While describing the meaning and importance of Akshaya Patra, the vessel that could produce unlimited quantity of food, Pandit Dasa underscored “True to its name, the Akshaya Patra program started by feeding thousands is now feeding millions of children.”

During his keynote address, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi pointed out that he heard the other speakers, especially Pandit Dasa, referring to compassion. “I was thinking that when the compassion in action merges with most advanced technology and professional management and excellence then it could be named as Akshaya Patra,” Satyarthi said.

Expressing concerns about not achieving SDGs in the expected timeframe Satyarthi added, “I would like to remind here that we have failed largely [in achieving] most of the goals.”

At the same time infusing some confidence, he noted, “In this situation of sometimes despair and hopelessness. We always need success stories. We need fresh air. We need a ray of hope,” adding, “And today through Government of India and Akshaya Patra’s effort we are able to give this hope to the world that India is not just a land of several problems. It’s a mother of over a billion solutions. Four billion meals is not a joke.”

Highlighting India’s efforts towards food security, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ruchira Kamboj said, “India is at the heart of this mission. We are taking bold steps, especially in eradicating poverty. Our actions today are painting the canvas of tomorrow. It’s a journey of hope, a journey of change, and we’ve already made history. Over 415 million people in India have stepped out of poverty…” while adding “The Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Initiative is a giant leap towards Zero Hunger. It’s nurturing over 100 million children across 1 million schools.”

Kamboj also delivered PM Modi’s statement congratulating the Akshaya Patra Foundation. “It is with immense pride and joy that I congratulate the entire team of the Akshaya Patra Foundation on the remarkable milestone of serving 4 billion meals,” PM Modi said.

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi delivering keynote address on April 2, 2024, at the Trusteeship Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters in New York. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Congratulating Akshaya Patra’s leadership, team members and supporters for “supporting a revolution” Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys, Padma Vibhushan recipient N.R Narayana Murthy said, “In your own low-key, peaceful but effective ways you have wiped the tears of the eyes of the poor children, you raised our confidence that good things can indeed happen in India. Your heroism, nobility, sacrifice, and altruism have brought hope, joy, confidence, and better future to India’s less fortunate children.”

While applauding the public private partnership, Vice-Chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Sri Chanchalapathi Dasa stressed, “India has a large and diverse population. This poses innumerable challenges in the implementation of even well-conceived and well-funded welfare programs of the Government,” adding “The Government of India made a strategic decision to involve NGOs in the implementation of the school meal program and give them the freedom to explore innovative approaches to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.”

Akshaya Patra kitchen in the Vasanthpura location on December 14, 2023, in Bangalore, India. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

He added that the Foundation is one such NGO, and that it has “developed a unique centralized kitchen model.” As an implementing partner of the Government’s school meal program, he said “We set up large semi-automated centralized kitchens to prepare 50,000 meals and even 100,000 meals at a time.”

Deputy Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, Francine Pickup said India’s “investments in sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems underscore its commitment to end food insecurity and meet SDG-2 on Zero Hunger.”

Deputy Commissioner of International Affairs from New York City Mayor’s Office, Dilip Chauhan presented a Proclamation to Pandit Dasa on the occasion, and Chairman of Akshaya Patra-USA, Siva Sivaram delivered the vote of thanks.



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