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Fueling the Minds of India’s Next Generation: The Importance of the Midday Meal
Ashwini, a young girl in class seven in the small village of Manneguda, India, loves school. It is her favorite place. She gets to be in the company of her friends and the caring teachers. Her favorite subject is English. She hopes to become a police officer one day.
School gives her a break from her busy life at home, with two siblings who attend the same school and a father who works as a fisherman while her mother helps sell the fish at the local market. They moved to their house about a year ago when they moved more than 700km (445 miles) from their original home in Bagalkot.
Each day, Ashwini looks forward to her midday meal, especially when she knows they’re serving her favorite – the spicy vegetable and rice dish called pulav. The meal is provided by Akshaya Patra, a key partner with Cargill in the region. Akshaya Patra is a nonprofit with a mission to eliminate classroom hunger and support the right to education of socio-economically disadvantaged children like Ashwini and her siblings.
Better nourishment, better focus
School meals are a lifeline for many children and their parents in India. Healthy meals are critical to students’ well-being and readiness to learn, with research supporting the connections between nutrition and learning by impacting memory, focus and brain health. In addition, research has shown that providing nutritious in-school meals increases attendance and academic performance.
Great things happen when people are food and nutrition secure. By having a consistent healthy meal available midway through her school day, Ashwini can focus on her studies and continue working toward her vision of becoming a police officer. Her parents are grateful that their children have access to these midday meals at school and say that these meals provide them with a sense of relief.
One meal, global impact
At Cargill, we believe that access to food is a priority that should not be compromised. It is important to support and empower communities to promote inclusive economic and social resilience. Cargill has been supporting Akshaya Patra for the past three years providing nutritious midday meals to children. So far, they have supported 1,336 children in Bangalore.
Cargill has also extended significant support towards COVID-19 relief efforts in partnership with Akshaya Patra, Feeding India and the India Food Bank Network. “Given the critical nature of our business, we are cognizant of our role in the relief and recovery efforts,” said Simon George, president of Cargill India. “We are doing everything needed to ensure supply of essential food and feed products continues.”
Community-level support such as midday meals has long-term impacts on society. Strength at the community level enables a more efficient and inclusive local and global food system.