Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Creating a Network of Healthy Students

Childhood is the time of exploration. Children are often better students than adults because they are open to learning in their quest for curiosity.  What if our entire country becomes a healthy ecosystem of learning where children get equal opportunity to learn and explore knowledge?

One of the ways that this seemingly utopian thought could actually come true is to ensure that each child going to school gets a healthy meal. Food must not become a deterrent but a motivating factor in children’s lives so to draw them to school.

The Mid-Day Meal Programme in states like Andhra Pradesh run in association with the government is one such endeavour towards ensuring Food for Education. Children’s charity Akshaya Patra has been actively working in 11 states across India towards serving healthy meals to school children. This state has had some amazing stories of children benefiting from this initiative, parents sending their children to school and spreading the word.

There’s a network that’s being created around the country of healthy students – school children who get mid-day meals every day. In order to understand its full impact, you need to dig a little into the history of mid-day meal scheme in India. It all began in June 2000 with the first ever programme of Mid-Day Meal in Bengaluru.  Akshaya Patra began with just 1500 children, today; it feeds 16 lakh children.

Specifically when it comes to Mid-Day Meal Programme in Andhra Pradesh, the children’s charity began its centralised kitchen in Visakhapatnam back in October 2008. Today this kitchen serves 21,333 children across 82 schools in the region.

This is an active network of healthy students who are learning in a great environment where they feel that their schools care for their food and nutrition. However, what really keeps us motivated is the feeling that children are taking it as a valuable gesture from the government and the schools. An instance of creating a network of healthy students is found in Visakhapatnam where there are 304 Anganwadi schools being run by the government. This unit of Akshaya Patra feeds 40,000 children across the Anganwadis. Since these are mainly set up in economically weaker sections, their enrollment often goes up each year.

L Kumari, a beneficiary of Anganwadi programme, has a six-month-old baby. It’s important for her to feed the baby regularly and she finds it wonderful that she gets to have healthy and nutritious meal. Moreover, she is determined to send her baby to school when he grows up. The seeds of healthy education system are thus being sown right from an early stage as Mid-Day Meal Programme in Andhra Pradesh moves forward and reach more children each year.

This ever-growing healthy network of Food for Education is supported by many donors and our government. By contributing Rs 950, you can sponsor a child for an entire year!


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