Covid-19 Food Aid: This Kitchen Never Sleeps – Cover Story News
Prior to the onset of Covid-19, the Bengaluru-based Akshaya Patra Foundation ran the world’s largest non-profit lunch program, reaching 1.8 million children in more than 19,000 schools in 12 states and two Union territories. But as the pandemic ravaged the country and schools closed, it was time to change direction. With job losses, hunger and disease everywhere, the foundation has decided to use its vast resources for an equally difficult cause: Covid relief.
“We quickly shifted our strategy from ‘food for education’ to ‘food for relief’,” said Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. The idea was to reach the needy in a three-pronged way: distributing four cooked meals a day to Covid patients, migrant workers and the unemployed; distribution of ration kits containing 42 meals for an adult, consisting of five kilos of rice, one kilo of tur dal, half a liter of cooking oil, spices, sambar powder and rasam and some vegetables; and the distribution of “happiness kits” for children, containing cookies, ragi flour, dental kits and sanitary kits for girls, etc.
The foundation ensures that essential groceries in food relief kits are based on the local taste of the regions where they are distributed. Recently, Akshaya Patra opened a Covid Relief Power Center at KR Market in Bengaluru, where 1,000 free cooked meals are provided daily to frontline Covid warriors, industrial workers and the poor. He plans to set up 3-4 similar feeding centers in other parts of the city.
Since the pandemic hit India, Akshaya Patra has delivered more than 124 million servings, says Venkat. This includes 60.7 million ready meals, over a million essential grocery kits (which can provide over 40 million meal servings) and 1.06 million “ happiness kits ” with dry rations. (equivalent to over 20 million meal servings), in addition to hygiene products and educational supplies. . Meals are prepared in Akshaya Patra’s 57 kitchens in 13 states. Kitchens have a tremendous capacity to prepare 2.2 million ready meals in a single shift.
This year, as the foundation was preparing to welcome children to school, the second wave of Covid struck. Akshaya Patra has partnered with several state governments to feed Covid patients in public hospitals and distributed grocery and ration kits through government channels. Venkat says the foundation’s fundraising events have received massive support from individual and corporate donors. More than 100,000 individual donors have come forward to support Covid relief through Akshaya Patra’s online platform.
Operation during lockout was not smooth. Cereals and vegetables had to be purchased to prepare meals, mills had to be opened, and boxes and bags were needed in large quantities. As local governments helped purchase raw materials and keep factories up and running, consumer firm ITC provided pulp from which boxes were made to distribute the grocery kits. .
With its team of 7,000 employees, the foundation seeks to broaden its scope of work by setting up collective kitchens and, if possible, to increase the production of meals because the need continues to increase. Recently, the foundation learned of the plight of three orphan girls in Assam and organized a steady flow of provisions for them. “These are the most satisfying times for me,” says Venkat, who has spent 16 years now with Akshaya Patra, having worked with several large companies. “I will be happy if we can activate our three shifts so that 5-6 million meals are sent to the needy.”
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