Akshaya Patra Foundation USA Holds Gratitude Gala, Raises Over $3 Million

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Vandana Tilak

NEW YORK, NY – The Akshaya Patra Foundation USA held its 7th and final grand finale virtual gala of 2020, the Gratitude Gala, this past Saturday evening. The Gratitude
Gala had over 10,000 attendees who viewed the event on Akshaya Patra’s webpage, Facebook, Youtube and TV Asia, and raised over $3 million.

The funds raised will provide COVID relief to migrant workers, including cooked meals, ration boxes for families, and Happiness Kits containing 30 days worth of food, hygiene products, and educational supplies to our mid-day meal beneficiaries, as well as support mid-day meals for school children when schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.

2020 has been a year of change for Akshaya Patra as they have shifted all in-person events to be entirely virtual. These seven virtual galas have reached over 32,000 people and consisted of a great list of speakers, including Raveena Tandon, John Chambers, Jamshyd Godrej, Sanjeev Kapoor, Boman Irani, Sudha Murthy, and many more.

“The Gratitude Gala was a poignant reminder of the realities of hunger. During the COVID crisis, we stepped up to serve 100 million meals. But we also know that for a child, hunger is a crisis every single day,” said Vandana Tilak, President of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA. “There is no escape, except for the meal they receive in school. It is up to all of us to keep up the work of providing meals and education and a decent childhood for our beneficiaries.”

The Gratitude Gala virtual event was a celebration of Akshaya Patra’s 20th Anniversary and
thanks to all of its supporters, donors, well-wishers, and partners. Dr. Rachana Kulkarni,
Cardiologist, and Akshaya Patra Board Member hosted the evening.

Elegant and talented actress and politician Hema Malini shared her favorite silver screen
moments, movies, and heroine roles. Also, she discussed her involvement in politics and
utilizing her audience to make a difference by promoting education and women empowerment.

The inspirational poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar voiced his gratitude for all the work Akshaya
Patra has done to end hunger. Then he graced us by sharing one of his original poems titled, Bhookh (Hunger). Then, Consul General of India Randhir Jaiswal expressed his admiration for Akshaya Patra’s achievements and partnership with the Indian Government to change millions of children’s lives. Next, the talented Swanand Kirkire recited a poem he wrote and dedicated to Akshaya Patra. The poem talks about the eagerness for children to learn and discover the world and how Akshaya Patra provides for these children, so they do not go to bed hungry.

Throughout the evening, world-renowned singer Shankar Mahadevan performed several
popular songs and classic hits for the viewers to dance and sing-along. He sang various songs from semi-classical compositions from Bandish Bandits, Bhajans, and renderings of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to modern foot-tapping numbers from Kal ho na Ho and Lakshya.

Overall, the event was full of heartfelt gratitude, lively musical performances, and enlightening conversations, celebrating the beneficiaries, volunteers, chapter teams from Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, and New York.

Established in 2000, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO school meal program, providing hot, nutritious school lunches to over 1.8 million children in over 19,257 schools through 55 kitchens in 12 states and two Union Territories in India. It costs only $20 to feed a child for an entire school year.

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