Why Akshaya Patra?
“I wanted Akshaya Patra to come here. This one meal has made a lot of difference to people who are struggling to make ends meet. It really is so wonderful to see what Akshaya Patra is doing. I can’t express that enough,” says Sister Joan Mary, Headmistress of St. Mary’s Primary School in Bellary District.
In fact she was so keen to have the Foundation implement the mid-day meal program in her school, that she personally requested it herself to concerned authorities. “I went several times to ask them to come here. They’re never late and they prepare such good food for children. It’s especially helping the girls who stay at our hostel,” says the Sister. Many underprivileged children from all areas of the district come to study at St. Mary’s, which provides education free of cost for them and Sister Joan Mary strives to give the children the best. Established since 1937, St. Mary’s is as well known around the city for its long history as it is for the strict sense of discipline it instils in the students who attend there.
On a warm Thursday morning she is outside in the school courtyard, busy making arrangements for the coming exam season. Seated in neat rows, engaged in their morning lessons students can be glimpsed through the open classroom windows that surround the courtyard. She has a lot more time on her hands now to attend to such duties. Before Akshaya Patra started providing food, Sister Joan Mary and a few members of her staff used to supervise the cooking process themselves, an activity which took lot of their time. “It was not easy for us. We had to keep track of things like how many calories each child received in a meal. Preparing food for a school full of children every day is no easy task.”
Headmaster G. Shabuddir experienced exactly the same problems at his school in Gadiganur, some 36km from the main city of Bellary. “If you visit a school where Akshaya Patra is not serving food, you’ll understand what I mean,” he says. “Teachers will be struggling to coordinate everything. If the gas runs out, getting another cylinder is a problem. Some days there will be no water. You have to stand and supervise the cooking, leaving teaching aside. After all these problems, if you serve food very late or anything comes up, there will be trouble in the village because parents will protest that their children didn’t eat anything during lunch break.” Parents have no worries about their children now, says the headmaster. They know good food is provided every day without fail.