The mid day meal scheme is an initiative of the Government to provide free school lunch to the children of Government schools. This initiative is being implemented by many NGOs across India and The Akshaya Patra Foundation is among them. There are six main objectives of the mid day meal scheme:
• Eliminating classroom hunger
• Increasing school enrolment
• Increasing school attendance
• Improving socialisation among castes
• Addressing malnutrition, and
• Women empowerment
Specifically talking about improving socialisation among castes, it is important to provide a meal that can be consumed by children across all communities. Keeping this factor into consideration Akshaya Patra prepares nutritious meal for children along with catering to the local palate. The meal menu of this Foundation caters to the food habits irrespective of any caste or community.
This NGO in Gujarat implements the mid-day meal programme in three locations namely Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Surat. Apart from implementing mid-day meal programme in Gujarat it also operates in eight more states, thereby covering a total of 20 locations across the country. Below is a snippet of the universal acceptance of Akshaya Patra’s meal in Gujarat.
Vikas Solanki, a Standard VII student of Pragati Vidyalaya, Gujarat, hails from a village near Bhailiy. His enthusiasm to study is seen in the fact that he cycles about 10 kilometres every day to reach school and does not miss school even a single day. Vikas comes from a neighbourhood that belongs to Patel group who considers themselves to be of superior community.
This community considers eating free school meal under the mid-day meal scheme to be below their dignity. Even then, parents of Vikas and many other parents encourage their children to share their lunch time amidst all other children of the school by eating the nutritious meal provided by Akshaya Patra. Not only Vikas, but his sisters are also beneficiaries of mid-day meal provided by Akshaya Patra.
This snippet shows that Akshaya Patra’s nutritious meal for children have the potential to meet the objective of socialisation among castes and various communities.