Akshaya Patra, which is credited to run the largest school meal programme in the world, has delivered over 7.1 crore servings (till July first week) across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to The Hindu , Akshaya Patra Chief Executive Officer Shridhar Venkat said: “The moment the country was hit by the pandemic our school midday meal programme came to a halt. We transformed our flagship programme ‘food for education’ to ‘food for relief’.”
In Andhra Pradesh alone, Akshaya Patra delivered about 1.41 lakh cooked meals and supplied over 30,000 grocery kits. In Telangana, the number was close to 16.6 lakh cooked meals and 90,000 grocery kits, he said.
“In addition, with our associate foundation —Hare Krishna Movement — we have delivered close to 1.25 crore cooked meals in Telangana and 1.68 lakh meals in AP,” said Mr. Venkat.
Akshaya Patra started off as an initiative of ISKCON Bengaluru and later in the year 2000 it was incorporated as a separate legal entity and from 2,000 school meals, we are today serving over 1.8 million school meals on a daily basis, across 52 locations spread over 12 States and two union territories.
According to Mr. Venkat, Akshaya Patra is a member of the National Disaster Management and wherever there is some disaster, be it in Assam, Chennai, Kerala or across the nation, Akshya Patra is asked to supply food and essentials.
“We have 52 fully-equipped, modern and hygienic kitchens across the country, manned by a trained staff strength of about 2,000, apart from thousands of volunteers. On a daily basis, our installed capacity handles about 400 tonnes of food raw material and can produce 2.2 million meals in a shift. Keeping in view the talk that the pandemic would reach its peak in August-September, we are ready to produce over six million meals in three shifts,” he said.
He also pointed out that of the 7.1 crore servings, the majority of it was catered for the migrants, during their peak movement across the country.
On the funding part, Mr. Venkat said that corporate companies not only come forward with funding but also contribute in the shape of volunteers. "We have hundreds of volunteers from the corporate and education sectors, and government," he said.
During the pandemic, children from one school in Hyderabad raised over ₹1 crore, he said.