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An Ngo's Effort To Make Health Is Wealth For Children

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By Author: Akshaya Patra
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‘Health is wealth’ is a familiar phrase and it becomes even more important with respect to children. The first five years of a child is considered to be the most crucial growth phase as a significant amount of development and learning happens during these formative years. And, an important aspect that promotes healthy growth is consumption of nutritious diet. Nutrition improves cognitive functioning, appropriate physical development, maintains energy levels, and provides enhanced immunity against infections and diseases. And, there is enough evidence to establish the relationship between nutrition, health, and learning.

So that every child receives the best of nutrition, many NGOs have taken it up as their core cause to provide wholesome meals to children mainly targeting the lower socio-economic strata of the society. One such NGO for children in India is The Akshaya Patra Foundation. Established in June 2000, this NGO implements the Mid-Day Meal Programme in government schools across the country with the vision ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger’. For the past 17 years, the Foundation has been tirelessly working towards providing freshly cooked, nutritious school lunch to school children so that children continue schooling and at the same time benefit from the programme health-wise. Before talking further about this NGO and its work towards promoting health and education, here is a list of reasons that explains the significance of investing in nutrition, health, and education of children:

Thus, it is evident that nutrition, health, and education become critically important during the growth years of children.

Well, heeding to the above-mentioned aspects of nutrition and health, Akshaya Patra, the NGO for children strives to provide ‘unlimited food for education’. In order to maximise the benefit of the Mid-Day Meal Programme, Akshaya Patra operates to formats of kitchen facility – centralised kitchen to provide school lunch in urban and semi-urban areas, and decentralised kitchens to provide school lunch in remote areas. To ensure meals are nutritious, the NGO employs various quality measures in its operations – right from procurement of raw materials to delivering the cooked meals. Raw materials are procured based on Supplier Quality Management System and are inspected as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). All the kitchens follow the FIFO (First In First Out) and FEFO (First Expiry First Out) methods while issuing the raw material for production. Washed and sterilised vessels and tools are used for cutting, cooking and transporting food. All employees are trained in good hygiene practices and food safety measures. It is mandatory for each member in the kitchen to follow the hygiene chart comprising of daily shower, use of clean uniforms, head caps, face masks to cover the mouth and nose area, hand gloves, gumboots, other protective gears and hand sanitisation. Cooked food is transported in insulated vehicles to retain the freshness and quality of meals. Continual Improvement Projects, Six Sigma methodologies, 5S, GMP, Lean and Kaizen are some of the process improvement methods implemented across all kitchens.

This charitable trust understands the value of each penny and hence on an average, 92% of the total donation is used towards meeting the programme cost and 8% towards the programme management cost. Such effective management of funds and operations has led the Foundation to grow steadily over the years. From feeding just 1,500 children in five government schools of Bengaluru in 2000, Akshaya Patra has expanded its reach to more than 1.7 million children across 12 states of India. It has impacted young lives with wholesome meals on every school day. So, even though Akshaya Patra is a mid-day meal NGO, it wouldn’t be wrong to say donate for education in India because its service of 17 years has been instrumental in bringing children to school and empowering them with education.

In a nutshell, to create a healthy society, we must focus on the health of children. And, to create a prosperous society, we must focus on the education of children. Only healthy children can contribute to the socio-economic growth of themselves and the society.

More About the Author

I'm a social volunteer, lives in Bengaluru. I do work for NGOs to make society better. Currently I'm working for The Akshaya Patra Foundation. It's an NGO in India which provides wholesome nutritious mid-day meals to government school children to end classroom hunger. https://www.akshayapatra.org/

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