Akshaya Patra milestones are rather significant for a journey of 17 years
The Mid-Day Meal (MDM) is an effective programme in the socio-economic context of India for bringing children to school. It is inferred as an imperative pillar of support to the existing infrastructure of education, which counters classroom hunger so that it does not impede children from coming to school. The Mid-Day Meal programme in India is an important intervention in order to ensure educational facilities are made use of optimally by the lowest sections of the society and also in reaching the full potential of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) – a flagship programme by Government of India to improve primary education and enable universalisation of elementary education (UEE) in a time bound manner. Mid-day meal for school children is a programme that focuses on providing free lunches to children at all Government schools in order to enhance enrolment, retention and attendance, and also improve child nutritional levels. Food security and education thus have the potential to uplift not only a family but the entire society by breaking the vicious ‘poverty-hunger-illiteracy’ cycle.
Recognising the importance of the mid-day meal programme in India and the need of improving primary education there has been an enhanced focus by the Government on both the programmes, with continued investment in MDMS and SSA. In the past year, the education sector has received a 17% increase in budget allocation for the Mid-Day Meal programme and currently 11 crore children across 12 lakh schools are benefitting from the mid-day meal for school children programme. The impact of the mid-day meal is seen across the country and the Government has inferred that successful implementation of the mid-day meal programme in India and SSA initiative has the potential to counter critical issues of Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger and Achieving Universal Primary Education which are also listed as United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The Government wants renewed community support and involvement, and more dedicated NGOs to improve the reach and impact of the mid-day meal programme in India. This is where The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s role becomes more evident. Akshaya Patra had deduced the connection between food and education and had started serving mid-day meals in schools since 2000. Later, when the mid-day meal for school children was mandated centrally by the Government of India in 2003, Akshaya Patra partnered with the Government to serve cooked mid-day meals at all Government schools. It was a welcome progression for the Foundation to working in association with the Government to tackle classroom hunger.