Akshaya Patra, a non-profit organisation running one of the world's largest school meals project in India, has been awarded the BBC World Service Global Champion Award for the programme. The Award, presented at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in Bristol this week, recognises a person or project who is changing the way the world produces, processes, consumes or thinks about food for the better.
The Bengaluru-based NGO was selected by an international panel of judges from nominations sent in by the World Service audience from around the world. "I am really moved by getting school lunches paid for in the States and so to see it being done on such a large scale and in such an incredible way by Akshaya Patra – that was a really moving and powerful thing to see," said Iranian-American writer and chef Samin Nosrat, the Head Judge of the panel.
"There is nothing more important to me than getting children fed. There are so many studies have proven that this is fundamental," she said. Akshaya Patra's stated mission is to ensure that no child is deprived of education because of hunger. It recognises that children may forego an education to do menial jobs to earn enough money to eat, and even if they do make it to the classroom, an empty stomach can make it hard to concentrate.
Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra said: "It's a matter of great pride for us to be selected for this award. I would like to thank the BBC World Service, on behalf of 1.75 million children whom we serve every day, day after day." The charity started its midday meal programme almost 20 years ago.
Back then it provided 1,500 free school lunches every day. Today it feeds 1.75 million children all over India with hot, freshly prepared meals. For many children, this will be their main source of nutrition and keep them in education. "Akshaya Patra is a great winner, and we're so glad the competition has had such support from the public and from the judges," said Stephen Titherington, Senior Commissioning Editor, BBC World Service.
"The need to understand the difficulties for many of finding enough to eat is crucial; understanding the economics and the politics of food is a vital part of understanding the world," he said. Other projects on the shortlist for the 2019 award included UK charity WRAP, which is aiming to reduce waste across a range of sectors, and Food 4 Education, a non-profit organisation which provides heavily-subsidised meals at primary schools in Nairobi, Kenya.
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