New Delhi, Apr 13: Madhu Pandit Dasa of the ISKCON movement, awarded the Padma Shri for his mid-day meal service at schools rendered under the Akshaya Patra initiative, says the foundation aims to feed 5 million children by year 2020.
The foundation of Akshaya Patra based on spiritual leader Swami Prabhupada's principle of no child going hungry has taken upon itself the responsibility of providing food to children in schools across different regions of the country.
Dasa who was among the eminent persons who was honoured with the Padma award in a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday says, "It feels that our work is being recognized."
"The award is the stamp of the government that it cares for this service. We want to feed at least 5 million children by 2020, which means every two to three months we have to open a kitchen that will feed at least one and a half lakh children regularly," he says.
What began in 1998 as an initiative to feed about 1500 children in Bengaluru, has now taken shape of a nation-wide mission that serves wholesome food to over 1.4 million under privileged children from 10,661 schools across 10 states in India.
"Once we started with 1500 children in Bangalore, the word spread around that Bengaluru Iskcon Temple is feeding in schools and suddenly applications for nearly 1,50,000 children came in. That is when we realized that so many children are sitting in the school hungry," says Dasa.
To accomplish the daunting tasks of preparing and delivering food in such massive quantities, Dasa, an IIT and IIM graduate, suggested the use of technology and thus were born the 'mega kitchens' that churn out unfathomable volumes of food in no time.
"Because it is a big scale problem, we thought that the only way to do that was through technology. That is how we came up with the mega kitchen. We have to use the best of the technologies because we have to cook for lakhs of children and it cannot be done without technology," says Dasa. Akshaya Patra's mammoth mid-day meal kitchen, which was also featured in a documentary on National Geographic Channel, cooks about 1,75,000 meals in not more than 5 hours with an 'inexhaustible vessel,' in a way that gravity facilitates the load-bearing work. MORE PTI TRS ANS ANS