NEW YORK – The New Jersey Chapter of Akshaya Patra Foundation hosted a dinner deception to honor Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, on April 14, at the residence of Drs. Rachana and Anand Kulkarni in Skillman, New Jersey.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, the Founder and Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, and Dr. Sudha Parikh, who have supported Akshay Patra since its inception, were in attendance, and praised the humanitarian work being done by Akshay Patra worldwide and pledged their ongoing support to further the cause.
Venkat talked passionately about the mission of Akshay Patra, a non-profit organization in India that runs school lunch programs. The vision statement of the foundation is that no child in India will be deprived of education because of hunger. It has been a very successful program In India.
Once the Mid-Day Meal Scheme was mandated centrally by the Government of India in 2003, Akshaya Patra partnered with the government to serve cooked meals at all government schools. Since then it has been a very successful Public Private Partnership working towards tackling classroom hunger in India.
Venkat stated that surveys show that since the implementation of Mid-day Meal Program by the government and various NGOs, there has been an upward surge in school enrolment and attendance of the children. Studies also indicate that this program has been able to reduce drop-out rate.
The impact of such initiatives has been well demonstrated and has been shown to increase enrollment as the midday meal acts as an incentive for children to come to school. It has also increased attendance, as it helps children to attend school. Kids performance in school also has been objectively shown to improve. In addition, this program also improves socialization among all the religions and castes, paving the road for more unified and educated future of India, said Venkat.
Currently, Akshaya Patra implements the Mid-Day Meal program in 36 locations, spread across 12 states of India. Each day the foundation feeds 1.7 million children, covering more than 14,173 government schools.
The foundation follows both centralized and decentralized kitchen formats to implement the program. The foundation’s centralized kitchen format serves as a model infrastructure for large scale production of mid-day meals. Akshaya Patra also serves as a Member of the National Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee for the Mid-Day Meal Program
Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, Co-chair of Akshaya Patra, New Jersey, stated that she got involved with the foundation as it promotes education and empowerment of women.
“Every parent wants to do the best for children. However, unfortunately sometimes social economic problems come in way of that choice and if it comes to a choice between which can’t get education and which one will stay home, it’s usually the daughter who gets left behind. Akshaya Patra helps parents to educate their children. This leads to a better society for years to come,” she said.
Women have been employed by the Foundation in different capacities in operations and other functional areas. Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also been appointed in De-centralized kitchen set-up for the cooking and managing the processes involved in mid-day meal preparation under the guidance of Akshaya Patra’s standard operating process. This opportunity has doubly benefited them by boosting their self-esteem and improving their social standing.
Venkat also talked about the transparency within the organization. On an average, 82% of the total cost is used towards meeting the cost and 14% is utilized as program management cost. Four percent of the total cost is steered towards meeting fundraising and communication costs. As of March 2013, around 51% of funding (amounting to Rs. 40,668 lakhs) has been accounted for by Central and State Government grants and subsidies, allowing the Foundation to raise the remaining 49% in keeping with the principle of transparency.
The Foundation complies with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and with the Indian Accounting Standards issued by the Institute of Chartered accountants of India (ICAI) for reporting its financials year-on-year. Akshaya Patra publishes its Annual Report with audited financial reports and makes it available for all its stakeholders, at the end of every financial year.
Vandana Tilak began working for Akshaya Patra since 2012, and started the Los Angeles Chapter in October, 2014. Under her leadership, the chapter has consistently raised over $1 million dollars every year. She was appointed to the Akshaya Patra USA board in 2015. She talked about embarking on a new social media outreach for the organization and shared her vision of building grassroots in each state.
New Jersey chapter co-chairs Kiran Kothari and Haresh Patel expressed immense satisfaction of working for an organization that promotes education across the country. Dr. Anand Kulkarni, APNJ Co-Chair stated that his father was benefited by the community supporting his education and he feels like he is paying it forward by supporting education of others.
The foundation has announced their annual gala for the year, to be held on October 6, in New Jersey.