Schooldays”- what are the many emotions that you can correspond with this word? Do you remember the class that used to be scheduled just before the lunch break? Most of us eagerly waited for the lunch bell to ring! Lest we realized during those days that it was primarily “classroom hunger”. Classroom hunger is a persistent situation. It is so critical that it has the potential to starve the learning mind of a child.
Classroom hunger results in lack of concentration, poor performance, and shrunk aspiration among children. To add to this state of affairs there are many children for whom even one single meal a day is a matter of chance. Even though these children have the will to learn, zeal to manifold their skills, and the determination to achieve, it is hunger that fizzle out all their hope. All they need is an opportunity, support and a meal that will feed the hungry stomach and allow the mind to think beyond food.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an Indian NGO works towards countering classroom hunger and nourishing the learning mind. It has been conferred as the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme. The Foundation is tirelessly working towards reaching out to more and more children across the length and breadth of India. Currently it feeds 1.3 million children everyday, in over 9000 Government and Government-aided schools across 19 locations of 9 Indian states. With the aim of reaching 5 million children in 2020, the Foundation is steadily spreading its operational activities around the country.
Here is a story of a little girl which describes the impact of countering classroom hunger:
Roja loves to spend time and chit-chat with her mother. Roja’s mother works as a domestic help. So, on Sundays when Roja has holiday, she accompanies her mother. Roja smiles as she says, “I go along with my mother because this way I can spend my Sunday with her.” As her father is a contract painter, he keeps travelling to different cities. To this Roja says, “It’s during such times that I miss my father.” An ambitious child, Roja wants to become a software engineer. She wants to score well in English as she fittingly opines, “In today’s world being fluent in English is very important.”
During her regular school days, her mother leaves home by six in the morning because of which Roja, her two sisters and her little brother comes to the Government school without having breakfast. She says, “I have got used to skipping breakfast but I love the afternoon food served in the school especially the rasam and rice.” This is one of the many schools where Akshaya Patra is providing mid-day meal to the children. This is also one hot meal that helps children like Roja beat classroom hunger. Here the benefit of the mid-day meal is threefold- Roja in particular and children in general are first getting a nutritious meal to feed the hungry stomach, second it is enabling them to aspire high and third they are attaining the self-confidence of expressing their opinions.