A tried and tested Indian model of a state-of-the-art kitchen as an affordable and scalable solution to childhood hunger is now being rolled out to address a children’s meals crisis in the UK.
Akshaya Patra Foundation UK has joined hands with GMSP Foundation, two leading charities working between India and the UK, in response to the growing concern around children in need across England not being provided free meals during the half-term school holiday this month. The new GMSP Akshaya Patra Kitchen, which kicks off in October, promises to produce and deliver thousands of nutritious, low-cost meals to children in London.
Ramesh Sachdev, Founder of GMSP, a family foundation which stands for God My Silent Partner, said: “We saw the speed and scale at which Akshaya Patra mobilised to feed nutritious meals to schoolchildren in India. We knew that this is what the UK needed now to tackle our growing food inequalities.
“Our shared goal is to expand the GMSP Akshaya Patra Kitchen’s centralised model to serve more nutritious holiday meals and then free school meals to children in London and around the UK. With this approach, the UK can solve holiday hunger and ensure our future generations have hot, fresh meals to fuel their minds.”
The issue of free meals during school holidays has become a highly-charged political debate in the UK in recent weeks, with a campaign led by England team footballer Marcus Rashford finding widespread backing from community groups and businesses. However, the government voted against free meals for eligible children from low-income households over the holiday period on the grounds that local authorities have been provided sufficient funding to tackle the issue.
Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, CEO of Akshaya Patra UK/Europe, said: “Our experience in providing fresh, hot meals to 1.8 million children in India daily combined with the very best in nutrition science, food technology and frugal innovation means we have a unique model fit for the 21st century.
“We are responding to the hunger crisis in a way that improves the quality of meals for the UK’s most disadvantaged children at scale.”
The zero waste and self-sustaining kitchen model was originally created in India to provide nutritious lunches from 52 kitchens to more than 1.8 million children in over 19,000 state-run schools every school day. It has now been recreated for operation in Watford, north of London.
The GMSP Akshaya Patra Kitchen says it will focus first on tackling the growing holiday hunger issue in London before extending the scheme wider. The Kitchen will cook two meal cycles a day: one for children during the holidays (2,000 meals) and one for those living in food poverty (3,000 meals) across London and Watford. When operating at full capacity the Kitchen can produce 5,000 child meals per day and 4,000 meals for those living in food poverty, the charities said.
The GMSP Akshaya Patra Kitchen will also conduct school tours of the Kitchen, speaking about the importance of healthy food and the science behind the cooking processes they use.
Each meal the GMSP Akshaya Patra Kitchen serves in the UK will also sponsor a meal for a child in India.