The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s history is a story of compassion Looking out of a window one day in Mayapur, a village near Calcutta, His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada saw a group of children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. From this simple, yet heart breaking incident, came the determination that: No one within a ten mile radius of our centre should go hungry.
It is his inspiration which helped us to create The Akshaya Patra Foundation as it is today.
The history of the non-profit organisation came to realisation with a humble beginning in the year 2000. The vision that “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” was derived from the history of Akshaya Patra.
The operational history of this non-profit organisation began in June 2000. The Akshaya Patra Foundation started the mid-day meal programme in Bangalore, Karnataka by providing mid-day meals to 1500 children in five Government schools in the city. The first beneficiary schools were chosen after detailed research by Venu Vadana Gopal Dasa, a full time missionary of ISKCON Bangalore. Reminiscing Akshaya Patra’s history he says, “Once the idea was conceptualised, I went to explore the surrounding areas in Bangalore and found that the schools in the outskirts and rural areas were in maximum need of a mid-day meal programme. I visited Government schools in areas like Peenya, Chikkabidarakalu and Makali and was moved by the plight of the kids there.” He goes on to add, “We then approached these schools and started serving the meals.”
The impact of this initiative was witnesses over a period of time with increased enrolment, steady attendance and better concentration during class hours. A visible improvement in the health of the children was also noticed. This was a major boost in the history of this non-profit organisation.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s history was not an overnight journey. The initial days of implementing the programme was not smooth sailing for the Foundation. Reiterating the challenges faced, Venu Vadana Gopal Dasa says, “Our main concern was the lack of vessels for rice and sambar, and a vehicle to transport the food. We had to hire transport vehicles from outside and send food from The Akshaya Patra Foundation.” At this juncture, Mohandas Pai and Abhay Jain wrote a fresh page in the history of this non-profit organisation. Mohandas Pai took the initiative of donating the first vehicle to transport food to the schools and Abhay Jain promised to get more donors to contribute for the further expansion of the programme.
The overwhelming response from the schools brought to fore the need for the programme and led us to increase our reach to more schools. Along with the support from donors, the partnership with the Government under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme was a turning point in Akshaya Patra’s history. This development helped the non-profit to further improve and increase its reach from 1,500 children to 1.7 million children, today.