Speaking at the launch, Mr. Mukherjee addressed the malnutrition figures as a wake-up call that needs to be resolved in an intensive manner so as to ensure good nutrition and health for children and their mothers.
He went on to say, "This is disturbing.... These figures are a wakeup call for all of us and underline the need for concerted drive against malnutrition, and until we ensure good nutrition and health for our children and their mothers we cannot achieve our targets of sustained and inclusive growth."
The campaign will be rolled out in four stages:
- Stage 1- Create awareness on symptoms of malnutrition for a period of eight weeks;
- Stage 2- Give a clarion call or public request, spread over six weeks.
- Stage 3- Key messages on basic critical practices for maternal and childcare to prevent from malnutrition.
- Stage 4- Inform the public about acquiring services and Mother Child Protection card.
In order to create maximum awareness, the campaign will be launched in 18 languages and will be advertised through all communication mediums- TV, radio and print. Actor Aamir Khan and lyricist Prasoon Joshi has been roped in by the Ministry to steer the awareness campaign. This campaign has been designed with technical support of UNICEF.
With the intention of achieving a hunger free and educated society, Akshaya Patra too is working for a similar cause by providing mid-day meal to children of Government school and Government aided schools in 19 locations across 9 states. This mid-day meal programme of Akshaya Patra proved to be a real blessing for the children and an incentive for many parents. Many parents started sending their children to school, with the surety that the children will at least get one full meal for the day. This simultaneously was enabling the children to get educated too. So, the mid-day meal in reality was countering two critical issues – hunger and education.
The mid-day meal programme of Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO run school lunch programme. The Foundation serves freshly prepared, nutritious meals to 1.3 million children of over 9000 schools on all school working days. This has benefitted the children as there were visible improvements in their health. Below are a few instances of the impact Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme had on the children:
- Juliet Pinto, Principal- Government Higher Primary School Mangalore, states that “health camps are conducted thrice a year, one of which is conducted by a government clinic which is situated close to the school. Incidentally, the clinic was set up at the same time when Akshaya Patra began feeding the school. The health supervisor found all the children to be healthy except general flu and common cold.”
- Lingaraj Bevour is a teacher in a small village school of Bukkasagara, about 50 kilometers away from the city of Bellary. The students of his school mainly hail from families of quarry workers. As both the parents need to work for supporting the family and leave early in the morning, the mid-day meal becomes the first, and many times the only full meal of many students. Despite the hardships, the noticeable aspect was the health improvement among children after the introduction of Mid-Day Meal Scheme by Akshaya Patra. Lingaraj Bevour says, “The health of the children in my school improved tremendously after regular food was provided by Akshaya Patra under the mid-day meal programme.”
- Assistant Head Mistress of Government Higher Primary School- Ashokapuram, Mysore, Geetha Lobo says, “The strength of the school has improved since food started being served here. Prior to Akshaya Patra’s intervention through the mid-day meal programme, some children used to faint from hunger during assembly, but that’s no longer the case. Now, they attend classes regularly and they concentrate better during lessons”.
- Nazia Tazeem, is the school in-charge at the Rehmani Model Senior Secondary School, Jaipur. She says, “It is only from the last three years that our children are receiving the mid-day meal. The health of the children was a major concern. Today the mid-day meal in the school provided by Akshaya Patra has a positive impact on the children’s health and has also brought about the much required change. The mid-day meal has helped the school in increasing attendance and enrolment among girls and reducing drop-out rate.” The numerous awards that now decorate the school office are a testimony to the children’s growth story. The significance of nutritious meal highlighted by The Akshaya Patra Foundation has translated into the school authorities educating the parents on nutrition too.
- Madhusudhan Mahapatra oversees Akshaya Patra’s decentralized kitchens in Nayagarh district of Odisha. The mid-day meal program goes beyond filling a hungry stomach, says Mahapatra. He cites of witnessing improved rates of enrolment and attendance in the years since Akshaya Patra began implementing the scheme in many of the village schools of Nayagarh district. He says, “In a state where nearly 46.8% of the population lives below the poverty line (Orissa has one of the highest figures for child mortality in the country)*, with high rates of child malnutrition, the fact that their children will get good food proves to be a strong catalyst for parents to send them to school.”
- *Food Security Atlas of Rural Orissa, 2008, a report by the UN World Food Program and the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi