for United News of India on Dec. 6, 2008
Children eating lunch provided by the Akshaya Patra Foundation in India.
US president elect Barack Obama has praised the charitable work of Akshaya Patra, considered the world's largest non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the upliftment of the underprivileged, describing it as a model not only for India but also for other nations as well.
"It has an imaginative approach that has the potential to serve as a model for other countries," Mr Obama said.
His remarks came in a letter he wrote to Akshaya Patra's US president Madhu Sridhar. The Karnataka-based organisation serves five other states in India where about a million underprivileged children at 5,600 schools are served free vegetarian meals daily.
Mr Obama hailed Sridhar and others associated with the charitable organisation.
"Congratulations for you and the people at the Akshaya Patra foundation for the incredible progress you have made in feeding the children of India," the Democratic Party leader said, adding "your use of efficient and innovative business practices to scale up in just a few years from feeding 1,500 schoolchildren daily to almost a million is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when people work together." The letter pointed out that behavioral problems are more prevalent among children who suffer from hunger. Hunger and malnutrition make it more difficult to fight AIDS and other public health issues.
Mr Obama added, "By feeding children now, you're helping to avoid many negative consequences that would be much more difficult and expensive to address later on." Mr Sridhar pointed out that US Senator Edward M Kennedy, another Democratic leader, had earlier praised his organisation, which is based in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
The foundation recently received grants from American Express and Yahoo amounting to US$100,000 and US$40,000 dollars respectively. The foundation was inspired by the Hare Krishna movement and has its main office in Hubli.
Among its foundation's backers are N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys Technologies and Gururaj Deshpande of the Deshpande Foundation.