CEO message: The inexhaustible vessel

Ever since we began this life-changing work, feeding a few thousand children in Bangalore in 2000, our efforts have been known by that beautiful phrase ‘Akshaya Patra’ – meaning ‘inexhaustible vessel’ or ‘limitless pot of food’. In the months I have been privileged to be UK CEO, I have seen first-hand how much the 2.2 million children we feed today across India – and now hungry kids in the UK too – depend on the nutritious food and access to education which flows from our inexhaustible vessel. 

Sadly, 23 years on from our humble beginnings, Akshaya Patra’s mission to ensure no child is deprived of education because of hunger is still very much needed. In India, despite much progress in recent decades, millions of children are still out of school because of poverty and far too many of those who do attend drop out before completing even their primary education. Meanwhile, here in the UK where we provide healthy vegetarian meals from our Watford kitchen, there are an estimated 4 million children who suffer from food poverty. 

Shubha - Akshaya Patra Beneficiary

But thanks to your generous support, Akshaya Patra’s efforts are making a huge difference to those kids enrolled in our programme. On a recent trip to Odisha, I met 12-year-old Shubha who told me how good food can sometimes be scarce at home, but that she doesn’t have to worry because she knows she will get a hot and nourishing meal from Akshaya Patra when she comes to school. With a wide smile, Shubha said, “I love the rice and soybeans, but my favourite day each week is when there is paneer!”. She went on, “I study hard and really like Mathematics. My dream is to work for the government and help my country to develop.” 

Soumiya - Akshaya Patra School TeacherWhile touring the rest of Shubha’s school, accompanied by one of her enthusiastic teachers Soumiya, I looked up to see a portrait on the wall. It was Droupadi Murmu, the President of India, and I asked Soumiya if it was common for Indian schools to display such a prominent picture of the head of state. Soumiya laughed and told me, “No, we are especially proud of our president because, when she was a little girl, she was educated in this very school.” 

I couldn’t help imagining that, among Shubha and her friends – fortified by food from Akshaya Patra – Soumiya may today be teaching another future president or prime minister of India! 

5,000 miles from that school in Bhubaneswar, I also recently met 7-year-old Selina, a little girl we are reaching through our programme which tackles holiday hunger in poorer London boroughs. I was heartbroken to hear Selina quietly ask if we would be able to send our hot meals to her home each day because sometimes all she and her mum had to eat was cereal.  

Despite our world being filled with so much suffering, my strong belief is that light can always overcome darkness. For our part at Akshaya Patra, if our pot of food is to remain abundant and our vessel is to go on being inexhaustible, it will only be because of the unwavering generosity and kindness of people like you. On behalf of children like Shubha and Selina, thank you most sincerely for all your love and support.