The Akshaya Patra Foundation Discusses Ideas to End World Hunger at the TAPForums conference

Ritu Jha-

 

Money can never be a problem when thought leaders and solutions-oriented innovators from public, private, and civil society sectors align, act, and invest to solve the world’s most pressing challenges such as classroom hunger and education.

This was visible at the 2nd annual TAPForums conference organized by The Akshaya Patra in the San Francisco Bay Area this past month.

“The idea is if we can get people who can contribute and actually have them [contribute] based on their experience rather than their time to help problem-solve, it’s more viable than money,” says Pawan G. Patil, founder of InteliCare Solutions and chairman of Akshaya Patra. “There is no question, the money will come but the proposition is to be able to take it to scale, so that it becomes a respirable proposition not just for India but for the world.”

(L to R): Paraag Marathe, President-49ers Enterprise; Vivek Vaidya, Super {Set} Venture Studio; Saket Modi, Co-Founder & CEO at Lucideus; Prabhakar Kalavacherla (P K), Partner-KPMG; Ramamurthy Sivakumar (Siva), Co-founder Pragya Ventures.

Patil, who was one of the keynote speakers at the conference told indica that he joined Akshaya Patra this past summer and sounded positive, he said the nonprofit could play a role in ending hunger not just in India but globally by 2030.

When he was asked if that is possible by 2030, Patil said, “It gives me hope.”

“Organizations like Akshaya Patra give hope because you have a visible, measurable, monitorable, and scalable impact,” said Patil.

“It’s not financially sustainable but given the incredible ideas that were generated out of the room today, you know as well as I that anything with respect of finance can happen very quickly,” said Patil. “So, once we have the financial, does it mean the problem is solved? Not at all, but there can be a focus not on the next dollar but on the next meal.”

During his speech, he discussed the United Nations Sustainable Development goal #2, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, which calls for Zero Hunger, access to nutritious food and the urgency to end hunger by 2030.

And pointing the data on where India stands, Patil during his keynote stated, “2019 global hunger index shows India has slipped to 102 out of 117 nations. “It’s sad,” said Patil. “I feel embarrassed.”

However, he not only holds the Indian government responsible for this but says it’s a wakeup call to Indians.

“It’s not a government failure issue […] it’s a private citizen failure issue across the board,” said Patil.

Pointing to the SDG again he said, “There are 17 of them, which one you focus on and the whole world is focusing on 17 [of them,] does that mean we don’t even get one of them right?”

“My personal point of view is like Akshaya Patra. The government’s SDG first focus should be on nutrition.”

“I am just saying if the world paid attention to one issue and saw it through, just imagine the spillover effect it would have on all these others,” Patil said. “A nutritious meal end hunger by 2030.”

When asked how to feed 800 million currently living under poverty, Patil responded, “India needs to feed 100 million and Akshaya Patra cannot do it alone but they have a great basis that has the ability to be shared and taken up by organizations including the government to be able to get scalable impact.”

When asked if he believes in the model of Akshaya Patra, Patil said, “You have to understand the model, and Akshaya Patra has to be open and transparent about the pain points with respect to the model.”

“What happens if it runs out of money in 30 days and these are serious issues because over 1.8 million people are dependent on this.”

”So literally, there is hunger in the organization from the very and across, I have seen and spent time visiting the kitchens, talking to different leadership [members] at board meetings, sharing my ideas and sharing perspective, and engaging in the discussion,” said Patil.

(L to R) Vandana Tilak, CEO- Akshaya Patra Foundation USA; Shridhar Venkat, CEO-Akshaya Patra Foundation India; Chad Bolick, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Philanthropy Management Group.

Vandana Tilak, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA sharing what it means to serve 1.8 million children daily from an operational, organizational, and impact perspective told indica why TapForums is needed, “It’s a different kind of fundraising, we want to build years and years of partnership with people who have their expertise and knowledge and can give in good faith and a supportive role they can help how we do things.”

“We are at a juncture where we want to grow differently,” said Tilak, “Fundraising is not easy and so this is a different way to reach out to different people and become partners with us. (And TapForums’ byline is empowering dialogue.”

Tilak, who calls joining Akshaya Patra a once in a lifetime opportunity feels raising funds is not easy, especially when they have to feed 1.8 million and rising children, “We want to grow and the more we grow, we add more children to our program and we have to raise money.”

“We kind of try to be optimistic and it’s a big job, it’s not challenging but we work a lot. My personal philosophy is if you have solved the problem and question of what you are doing then everything else will work.”

Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation India commented, “From the social impact side, you are impacting the lives of about 5 million people when you feed 1.8 million children. The community kitchen model gives local employment to women and youth and the meals also serve a big instrument for social-economic investment. The economy of location changes when a hot meal is provided.”

He calls TapForums a platform for intellectuals to come together and to find solutions, ideas, and empower dialogue about the various problems and challenges which organizations like Akshaya Patra face.

He proudly said that 80 percent of revenue generation comes from India and the organization has been growing 20 percent every year but how can we scale up Akshaya Patra in a sustainable manner that is one of the challenges.

“It’s already in good hands but the problem is when you have 1.8 million people, as the organization evolves your challenges are different, so it’s very important we exchange ideas,” he said. “We have people here, many of them are VC’s who, gave some ideas, so it’s basically a problem-solving forum.”

Established 20 years ago, The Akshaya Patra Foundation (Food for Education) operates as one of the largest NGO-run midday school meal programs in the world; feeding freshly prepared, healthy, lunches to 1.8 million school children in over 16,856 government schools in India every day. They are offering service in 13 Indian states at present.

Akshaya Patra operates 51 centralized kitchens and has 1000 food vans, and through a public-private partnership, combines good management, innovative technology, and smart engineering to deliver school lunches, at a cost of only $20 to feed a child for the entire school year.

Venkat told indica, “Approximately the cost per meal is 20 cents, 11 cents we raise and 9 cents comes from the government.”

Venkat also shared how they keep upgrading the technology to keep meals warm and acceptable by children. When asked about the issues of food as reported the chapatti turns hard, Venkat said, “They now have made modifications like using butter paper and using cloth to dry it through a blower.”

Attendees at the 2nd annual TAPForums conference held in Burlingame,Calif.

Meanwhile while discussing the trends in philanthropic giving and the importance of funding proven as well as new ideas, Chad Bolick, Executive Director of Morgan Stanley Philanthropy Management Group, emphasized the importance of funding a capacity building of people who are focused on innovation, marketing, fundraising, and research & advocacy to amplify the impact of the organization.

Vivek Vaidya, Super{Set} Venture Studio suggested, “Venture Capitalists to pledge 1% of gains for impact investing and for non-profit organizations by creating mechanisms at the VCs Partnership level or voluntary basis across all levels.”

 

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