The ISKCON Mid Day Meal Programme
Education is the key to eradicate poverty, but hunger obstructs education as children are forced to leave schools and take up menial jobs. Hunger impairs cognitive development, permanently crippling a child for a lifetime. Over six million children in India develop mild mental retardation due to malnutrition, which could have been prevented. Lack of education curtails opportunities for development and it locks these innocent children into a vicious cycle.
The Mid-Day meals programme, implemented by the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation aims to liberate the underprivileged children from this vicious cycle by providing free, sanctified and nutritious food.
Dressed in blue work uniforms with caps and gloves, the cooks, every morning at 5am, start preparing for the meals by cutting the vegetables and cleaning rice and lentils. Meals are cooked in steam jacketed couldrons which have an individual capacity of 300 Kgs. The cooked food is stacked in stainless steel sealed containers and transported in vans to schools. During the lunch break, piping hot nutritious and delicious sanctified food in sumptuous quantities is served to the students.
ISKON is currently feeding 35000 children every day, but a lot more needs to be done.
Presently, 13219 students benefit from the Mid-day Meal Program every day. Expected growth in the academic year 2005 – 2006, was to reach 39000 students. The project works on economy of scales. As the number of students increases the cost per head reduces as the overheads are divided.
SAGE Foundation has joined hands with ISKON Foundation to raise funds for feeding more hungry mouths.
The cost of sponsoring students’ meals is USD 30/- per student per year as the meals cooked in the most cost effective manner, cost only INR 6/- per child per day and are partially subsidized by the Government. The project works on economy of scales. As the number of students increases the cost per head reduces as the overheads are divided. Since schools function for 200 days in a year, the cost of providing meals to say a school of 1000 students per year comes to 15000 USD approximately. A signboard in a prominent position reveals the name of the donor.
Total transparency is maintained throughout the process. Anyone can visit any of the schools and observe the actual meal distribution. One can participate and help in serving the meals to the students. In addition. Transparency is maintained in the collection of donations and allocations. All audited financial accounts are presented to all donors, periodically.