Akshaya Patra's four billionth meal milestone celebrated at the UN
    Date :03-Apr-2024

United Nations, Apr 3 (PTI)
The historic milestone achieved by the Akshaya Patra Foundation of serving four billion meals was celebrated at the United Nations headquarters, with the commemoration highlighting India's proactive measures to ensure food security and offering a template to other nations for impactful action.
The Permanent Mission of India to the UN hosted a special event — 'Achievements in Food Security: India's Strides Towards Sustainable Development Goals' — on Tuesday, showcasing the country's innovative strategies, policies and achievements in food security and nutrition and their alignment with SDGs, particularly the target of zero hunger.
The event, attended by Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation Madhu Pandit Dasa, commemorated the milestone four billionth meal served by the Indian NGO.
In a message sent especially for the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated with "immense pride and joy" the entire team of The Akshaya Patra Foundation on the "remarkable milestone” of serving four billion meals.
“This achievement stands as a testament to an unwavering commitment to eradicate hunger and provide nourishment to humanity. The significance of this milestone is further highlighted by serving the meal at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, showcasing a passion for global wellbeing," Modi said in the message that was read out by India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj.
Modi said Akshaya Patra has served meals to countless children, ensuring that the "makers of the world's future are well nourished". He also recalled the occasion when he had served the three billionth meal at Vrindavan in February 2019.
The Indian mission said in a concept note that with a population of over 1.4 billion, India's efforts in ensuring food security have far-reaching implications and serve as a model for other nations striving to combat food insecurity.
In his keynote address, Satyarthi told the gathering that commemorating the milestone of four billion meals at the UN headquarters is "very significant" and sends a "very strong message" since this is the "place that represents the hopes and inspirations of 8 billion people".
Satyarthi lamented the failure of the international community towards making commendable progress in achieving the 2030 development goals. “If we fail SDGs, we fail the future," he said.
“In this situation of sometimes despair and hopelessness, we always need success stories. We need a ray of hope and today through the Government of India and Akshaya Patra's effort, we are able to give this hope to the world that India is not just a land of several problems, it is the mother of over a billion solutions," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.
Commending the foundation's efforts, Satyarthi said that serving four billion meals is "not a joke".
Lamenting the shrinking moral compass globally, Satyarthi said this is the time to globalise compassion. "India will lead the globalisation of compassion. If India cannot lead the globalisation of compassion, no one can lead," he said.
Murthy appealed to leaders of other countries at the UN to emulate the Akshaya Patra model and "bring joy, health, confidence, hope and success to poor children in their own countries".
Lauding the work done by the foundation, Murthy said that Akshaya Patra raises “our confidence that good things can indeed happen in India".
Murthy emphasised that India has been making good economic progress due to the success of the government's economic policies, vision and hard work of Indian entrepreneurs and citizens as well as the foreign direct investment from multinationals.
He noted that the Government of India runs the world's largest food security programme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), which benefits over 800 million people. As part of it, the school feeding program PM POSHAN (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme directly benefits over 118 million children. "Akshaya Patra is a proud addition and a proud partner of this fantastic initiative of the Government of India," Murthy said.
“Poverty is not unique to India. It is there in every society. Akshaya Patra makes the future of India safe by bringing inclusivity to the country's growth and making the poor people enthusiastic partners in our quest towards prosperity," Murthy added.
He stressed that Akshaya Patra is a worthy example of a "successful public-private partnership” and it “very importantly rises above religion, region and caste”.
Murthy said he is "very impressed" that Akshaya Patra has used technology in a big way to ensure that food is clean and delivered hot and dust-free.
On the occasion, Dasa announced Akshaya Patra's "commitment to share its rich experience in using the best technology and logistics of large-scale cooking and distribution of food with any organisation in any part of the world to help them replicate this model to alleviate hunger.
If invited by any country, Akshaya Patra is most willing to go beyond the boundaries of India, driven by the passion of the well-being of every citizen on this planet."
The foundation had served over 250 million meals during the pandemic in India and a kitchen was set up in Nepal to provide hot meals to people affected by an earthquake.
Recently, it provided food, grocery and hygiene kits in Turkiye, benefiting thousands of earthquake survivors in the country.
"We are also serving the people of Ukraine" who are facing food security challenges due to war, Dasa said.
Kamboj highlighted that India is taking "bold steps", especially in eradicating poverty. "Our actions today are painting the canvas of tomorrow. It's a journey of hope, a journey of change."
Kamboj underscored that Akshaya Patra's efforts "shine as a model of hope and a template for impactful action. This goes beyond feeding the hungry. It's about educating the young and empowering women, driving both SDG 2 — zero hunger and SDG 4 — quality education by incentivising children to attend school," she said.
Currently, Akshaya Patra has 72 kitchens in India, feeding 2.1 million children every day in 24,000 schools over the last 24 years.