'One meal feeding two children', one in the UK and the other in India, this unique formula has been devised by Akshaya Patra Foundation, a 20-year-old charity serving mid-day school meals in India.
In partnership with UK charity God is My Silent Partner (GMSP), Akshaya Patra has set up a kitchen in the Watford area in London to produce and deliver thousands of nutritious, low-cost meals to children in London.
According to an All-Party Parliamentary Group report of 2018, the UK has over 3 million children who are at risk of hunger, especially during school holidays. For these children of low-income families, the free school meal is the only guaranteed meal.
During holidays, these children go to bed without food or by eating highly processed and preservative-loaded food. The coronavirus has only made things worse.
Akshaya Patra Foundation, providing nutritious lunches from 52 kitchens to more than 1.8 million children in over 19,000 state-run schools every school day, is attempting to replicate their India model in the UK.
Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, CEO of Akshaya Patra UK/Europe said, "Our experience in providing fresh, hot meals to 1.8 million children in India daily combined with the very best in nutrition science, food technology and frugal innovation means we have a unique model fit for the 21st century."
"We are responding to the hunger crisis in a way that improves the quality of meals for the UK's most disadvantaged children at scale. At the same time, we are reducing costs for the government by 33 per cent in a genuinely low impact and environmentally sustainable way," Shekhawat added.
With an ability to produce 9,000 meals each day, the new kitchen in Watford is a zero-carbon and zero-waste plant which is the first step to realise their vision.October 30, 2020
Founder of GMSP, Ramesh Sachdev who is a sponsor of the kitchen said, "We saw the speed and scale at which Akshaya Patra mobilized to feed nutritious meals to schoolchildren in India. We knew that this is what the UK needed now to tackle our growing food inequalities."
"Our shared goal is to expand the GMSP-Akshaya Patra kitchen's centralized model to serve more nutritious holiday meals and then free school meals to children in London and around the UK. With this approach, the UK can solve holiday hunger and ensure our future generations have hot, fresh meals to fuel their minds," Sachdev added.
The mission is not only to address the issue of hunger but also to ensure that each meal is nutritious and tasty. With the help of innovative and latest technology, each meal comprises 650 calories which constitutes a balanced diet.
Talking about what difference these hot meals have made to the lives of families, headteacher of Mora primary school, Kate Bass said, "The families are just grateful that they can come and collect hot meal, nutritious and balanced meal that's important too that we are not just feeding them cheap rubbish."
An Indian charity is offering free hot school meals in London to fight 'holiday hunger'. India Today's @loveenatandon speaks to Kate Bass, head teacher of Mora Primary School on how this initiative is helping children.#ReporterDiary #IndianCharity #FightAgainstHunger #London pic.twitter.com/FJHu9Q057t— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) October 31, 2020
As many as 100 out of 450 children of Mora primary school are provided with these hot meals but the most important thing is that no questions are asked when the meal is being distributed. The doors are open for anyone to collect.
The Akshaya Patra model is collaborative and involves stakeholders such as government, community, council, schools and now along with their partner GMSP, the foundation aims to open similar kitchen in other parts of UK, possibly Leicester next.