Bill Clinton became a part the vast mid-day meal programme in Rajasthan on Wednesday by serving hot food to children in a government school — an experience that left a deep impression on the former President of the United States.
“Such a huge quantity of food prepared and served in efficient, healthy and sanitary manner is unbelievable,” Mr. Clinton said during his address to the students of a government Sanskrit school in Sanganer near Jaipur on Wednesday.
The Mid Day Meal Scheme is jointly run by Akshaya Patra, Deshpande Foundation and the Rajasthan government and feeds over a lakh children in about 1,500 schools, 15,000 infants in 298 anganwadi centres, and runs subsidised canteens for socially and economically backward sections of the society in Jaipur alone. The Clinton Foundation under the Clinton Global Initiative raises awareness and motivates business houses, corporates and other agencies to fund Akshaya Patra for running the Mid Day Meal Programme.
“This is the finest commitment made by the Clinton Foundation in its 10 years of existence. It is wonderful,” he said hoping that more business houses and organisations and agencies would participate in the programme.
He visited the centralised Akshaya Patra kitchen where the food is cooked and transported to schools, including Madrassas.
Mr. Clinton said Caterpillar Foundation had already announced a contribution of $2 million to run a similar kitchen in Lucknow to feed 100,000 students. It will be functional in two months.
There were some emotional moments as well when Mr. Clinton interacted with students and teachers. “Had it not been for the Mid Day Meal, my mother would have taken me out from school,” Monica, a student, told Mr. Clinton, who was moved on learning that Monica had not had any breakfast.““When Mr. Clinton left, he hugged Monica and told her to pursue her dream of being a lawn tennis player, leaving all of us emotional,” school principal Dr. Seema Parashar told The Hindu .
Over 1.3 million children in about 10,500 schools in 20 States are provided Mid Day Meal by Akshaya Patra and the expense on each student is $30 per year, which is shared between the State governments and Akshaya Patra.