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Akshaya Patra vows to feed 100,000 more children

Arthur J Pais | October 22, 2008 20:27 IST

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides free and nutritious meals to nearly a million children in government schools in half-a-dozen Indian states, last week made a $7 million commitment to feed an additional 100,000 schoolchildren. The organisation made the pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York last week.

It raises money from corporations, individuals and government agencies to provide meals during school days, costing $28 a year per child.

'By combining the best practices of well-run companies and the passion of helping the disadvantaged, Akshaya Patra has become a beacon of hope for the future,' said Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande, Akshaya Patra's board chair, co-chair and founder of Sycamore Networks, Inc.

The 3-year-old William J Clinton Foundation led the Clinton Global Initiative, which convenes global political and civic leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the most urgent challenges. Since 2005, CGI members have made nearly 1,000 commitments to action valued at upwards of $30 billion, improving the condition of more than 200 million lives in over 150 countries.

The Akshya Patra commitment will be funded, among other organizations, by the Deshpande Foundation. The largest mid-day meal non-governmental organization in the world, Akshya Patra, will build a new kitchen in Orissa, and expand the one in Uttar Pradesh [Images]. It has committed to offer free meals for at least three years.

The announcement came just as the Foundation has moved onto the final round of the American Express Members Project. Only five projects remain out of the 1,190 projects submitted over three months. Voting for this final round ends October 13. American Express card holders can vote by going online to and clicking on 'Feeding One Million Children Daily.'

American Express is providing $2.5 million to the winners. The most voted project will receive $1.5 million, second place $500,000, third place $300,000 and the fourth and the fifth place winners receive $100,000 each.

'The Members Project is an amazing opportunity for Akshaya Patra, not only because of the funding it will provide to feed the children, but also because of the exposure it brings to the mission of our organization,' said Madhu Sridhar, president, Akshaya Patra USA. Those who are not American Express card holders can spread the word and get their card-holding friends, family, colleagues and business associates to vote.

'If Akshaya Patra wins the $1.5 million, we will be able to feed over 53,000 children daily for the next school year,' Sridhar added.

Akshya Patra is more than a relief organization, said Narayana Murthy, the founder of and chief mentor of Indian information technology major Infosys [Get Quote], who was the keynote speaker at a recent fundraiser in Boston. It should involve the donors as grassroot workers, he said.

Hence the One For One campaign, which the organization launched recently. "It is designed to encourage people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to donate $28 to feed one child in India for the entire school year," Sridhar said.

"The One For One campaign is about the power of one," she continued. "It gives an opportunity for one and all, students, children and adults, to make a long lasting impact in the life of one child."

The campaign is spread by word of mouth and by donors asking their friends and family to donate and match their gifts, she continued. "Donors to the campaign will log on to and click on the ONE FOR ONE prompt at the top of the main page to donate. Once the person has donated, he or she will be prompted to spread the word by entering the names and e-mail addresses of their friends and relatives."

The Hare Krishnas, who started Akshaya Patra in Bangalore, are still involved with the movement. Chitranga Chaitanya Das, a Hare Krishna monk, recently told Huffington Post how efficient the organization's kitchens are.

'Now we can cook enough rice for 1,000 children in 15 minutes,' Das said. 'In an hour, we can make 10,000 Chappatis. In six hours, we can prepare 250,000 meals. We process 100,000 kilos of rice and lentils a day. That's unheard of in India.'

Preparing more than one million meals for a day could set a record. With a mischievous look, Huffington Post writes, Das said: 'We really want to get into The Guinness Book of Records.'

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