Akshaya Patra Foundation launches pilot program, introduces millets in mid-day meals

Bengaluru (Karnataka): The Akshaya Patra Foundation launched a pilot in partnership with the Government of Karnataka on Monday to introduce millets in the mid-day meal scheme with an aim to enhance the nutritional intake of the beneficiaries.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) will be the knowledge partner guiding this approach.

Akshaya Patra is happy to support and be a part of Government of Karnataka’s campaign to promote Smart Foods.

This pilot was launched in the run up to Organics and Millets 2018, International Trade Fair, being organised at Bengaluru Palace from January 19 to 21.

The pilot will cover 1,622 beneficiaries across 10 government and government-aided schools.

In the initial phase, children will receive millet-based items like upma, bisibelebath, sweet and khara pongal twice a week in addition to the existing mid-day meal menu from Akshaya Patra’s centralised kitchens. The implementation will be undertaken in a phased and systematic approach under the direction of leading subject matter experts and nutritionists.

The launch was held at the Government Higher Primary School at Kumaraswamy Layout, Bengaluru in the august presence of Chief Guests, Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister for Agriculture Department and Minster-in-charge of Bangalore Rural District; Tanveer Sait, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Government of Karnataka, and Minority Welfare, and Wakf Department excluding Haj, and K. J. George, Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town Planning.

Other dignitaries present at the event were R Ashok, MLA; Shoba Anjanappa, Corporator; Joanna Kane-Potaka, Leader, Smart Food Initiative, ICRISAT and Shridhar Venkat, CEO, Akshaya Patra.

The event was presided by Chanchalapathi Dasa, Vice Chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Krishna Byre Gowda served millet items to the Akshaya Patra beneficiaries at this landmark event and stated, “The country has taken strides in achieving food security. The mid-day meal programme, started in Karnataka, has ensured food security for children. To further this agenda, it is imperative that we focus on nutrition security, particularly amongst children. Introducing millets in mid-day meals is a great beginning towards ascertaining this. Millets are not only rich in nutrients, but they are also good for our health, smallholder farmers and for the environment. This makes them smart food. We are very happy to undertake this initiative in association with Akshaya Patra as the chief implementing agency, and ICRISAT as the knowledge partner.”

The other dignitaries in attendance appreciated and welcomed this noble initiative aimed at making a meaningful impact in the lives of the mid-day meal beneficiaries. They encouraged the Foundation and pledged their support for its future endeavours.

“We are happy to launch the pilot in partnership with the Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT. This initiative is a continuation to our efforts of enhancing the nutritional intake of our beneficiary children. We wholeheartedly thank Krishna Byre Gowda, a true millet icon for his continuous support and encouragement towards this undertaking. We also extend our sincere gratitude to all other dignitaries present for gracing the occasion and supporting this initiative. We look forward to work with all stakeholders to efficiently implement this pilot. We are confident that with the pro-active support of the government we will be able to scale this initiative across Karnataka,” said Chanchalapathi Dasa.

The global Smart Food movement initiated by ICRISAT has been developed with the aim to ‘mainstream’ selected Smart Foods, back as a staple, in their traditional countries across Asia and Africa – bringing diversity in diets, and on the farm.

“Making millets popular to the masses again will be a major breakthrough in overcoming malnutrition and rural poverty while being more sustainable for the environment. It can also drive new markets and business opportunities. It is also predicted to be the next superfood, globally,” said leader of Smart Food Initiative for ICRISAT, Joanna Kane-Potaka.

Similarly, Akshaya Patra had earlier launched millet snacks in the form of khaja, chikki, laddoos, etc. as a part of the mid-day meal programme covering 1,05,724 children in government schools and anganwadi centres in Telangana, during the first week of January.

Other organisations who will contribute to this initiative are, Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Swaminathan Foundation (MSSRF), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), and other government and industry groups.

By working together and adopting a large-scale approach, Akshaya Patra is optimistic of making a significant impact towards India’s Nutrition Mission for the benefit of current and future generations. (ANI)