NEWTON, MA—Over 500 business, community, non-profit, government and philanthropic leaders attended the 12th annual fundraising gala of the Boston chapter of Akshaya Patra Foundation, the world’s largest NGO-run school meal program that serves hot fresh school lunches to 1.6 million children in India. (Photos by Dyuti Majumdar)
“I was overwhelmed by the genuine and abundant compassion I saw and felt in the room for the children of India,” Desh Deshpande, Chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA and the Deshpande Foundation, told INDIA New England News. “With that level of support, I feel very hopeful that together we can make sure that no child in India is denied of education because of hunger.”
The fundraising gala was held on Sunday, April 15, at the Newton Marriott Hotel in Newton, MA. Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, was the keynote speaker. He said so many children in the United States itself don’t get nutritious food and so much food is wasted around the globe. He urged the audience to aim high and work towards solving the hunger problem.
“We as a planet have aimed too low,” said Mr. Rauch, who spent 31 years with Trader Joe’s, the last 14 years as a President, helping grow the business from a small, nine-store chain in Southern California, to a nationally acclaimed retail success story.
Mr. Rauch is also the Founder/President of Daily Table, an innovative non-profit retail solution tackling the issue of hunger/obesity by utilizing the excess, high quality, nutritious food that would otherwise be wasted.
Vandana Tilak, who assumed the role of CEO of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA earlier this year, said world’s largest NGO-run school meal program was on the cusp of transformation.
“I believe Akshaya Patra is at a cusp for immense transformation,” Ms. Tilak said. “We have phenomenal chapter teams raring to do more, increase awareness and funds for children in India and the Boston team is a shining example of the change we can create when love and good intent comes together.”
Comedian and actor Omi Vaidya of the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Three Idiots’ fame, served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.
Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO-run school meal program and serves hot fresh school lunches to 1.6 million children in 13,839 schools from 34 kitchen facilities in 12 states in India. Akshaya Patra USA is the US branch of Akshaya Patra and raises funds and awareness for the school meal program in India. The Akshaya Patra Foundation USA has Volunteer Chapters in cities across the United States that hold fundraising and awareness events for the organization. The Boston Volunteer Chapter is the oldest Chapter and was established in 2006.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation USA’s Boston Volunteer Chapter is led by the Chapter Committee Co-Chairs—Bela Chandhok, Ravi Sakhuja, Rakesh Kamdar, Urvashi Bhatia, Ajita Bhat, Ameeta Mehta, Rajeev Jain, and Rekha Gopalan—and supported by the media sponsors (Manju Sheth and Upendra Mishra) and Committee Members.
The Chapter Committee Members are Dr. Apurv Gupta, Dr. Megha Scarff, Dr. Vinay Kumar, Santhana Krishnan, Mahesh Goyal, Dr. Smita Patel, Dr. Kanu Patel, Rama Neti, Praveen Thailam, Rohil Chandhok, Priya Samant, Dr. Anand Kanjolia, Subhashish Acharya, Dr. Supria Rao, , Jean Patel Bushnell, Ajita Bhat, Murli Kudlugi, Chandu Shah, Shridhar Kulkarni, Latha Mangipudi, Poonam Kamdar, Latha Rao, Sena Desai, Yoshika Sherring, Samantha Ganglani, Shobha Donti, Namita Singh, Sundar Narasimhan, Dr. Deepa Jhaveri, Sowmya Suneel, Shobha Donti, Sundar Narasimhan, Marie Lamb, Samantha, Anjan Mehta, Kedar Gupta, Dr. Meena Mehta, Suraj Kapoor, and Lovely Kaur.Volunteer manager, Ajita Bhat. Assistant volunteer manager, Urvashi Bhatia and AP community ambassador, Manju sheth.
Akshaya Patra has received international recognition for its life-changing mission. In 2016, Akshaya Patra’s Founder Madhu Pandit Dasa received the Padma Shri Award, India’s fourth highest civilian award, for his work with Akshaya Patra. Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra India, was recognized as being among the 50 Most Impactful Social Innovators in the world. Akshaya Patra was recently awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize, an award established to recognize an organization’s outstanding achievements that contribute to the region’s sustainable development. Akshaya Patra is the subject of best-selling authoress Rashmi Bansal’s recently published book God’s Own Kitchen.
For more information about Akshaya Patra, please visit www.foodforeducation.org.