Anna means food and Amrita means Nectar. So Annamrita together put stands for “food as pure as nectar”
Nectar is the food of the Gods and if this is available on Earth what can it be?
It is the daily mid day meal in the form of ‘kichdi’ provided to over 12,00,000 school children from 20 Kitchen centres located currently in 10 states of India, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal West Bengal, with more to follow.
Clean and wholesome, prepared with the most modern equipment available and in an extremely hygienic environment, the ‘kichdi’ is an ensemble of rice, dal, tomatoes, spices and vegetables with the secret mix of ‘love, devotion and compassion’. It is indeed food for the beloved gods – the young school children.
A brainchild of ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF), Annamrita was founded on the premise that only a sufficiently fed body could correctly imbibe what was being fed to the mind. Additionally if the body got the right nutrition it would help the body, grow healthier and cause the mind to absorb much better.
The idea is to provide school children in the government schools across the nation which consist of children from less fortunate backgrounds to get at least one proper meal a day, that too the most essential – the mid day meal. Therefore ‘one nutritious meal a day brings thousands of children to school’.
There were supportive facts to this premise that were proven and became glaringly evident.
- – Rural children drop out of school very quickly on account of pangs of hunger and not being able to cope up mentally, because their families being poor and illiterate are unable to provide, even one square meal in a day. To compound this misery they have to take up menial jobs to obviate this menace of going hungry daily.
- – Scientific studies have shown that hunger obstructs education by way of affecting clear thinking and productive working in children
- – Nutrition studies have shown that lack of nutrition is directly linked to iron deficiency leading to reduced IQ levels even at an advanced age and leading to all forms of diseases and sickness.
- – A laboratory study has even shown how healthy, well-nourished school-aged children have had declining performances in tests, slowed down responses and problem solving abilities if they skipped breakfast daily.
So was ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, a not-for-profit, non-religious, non-sectarian public charitable trust formed on April 23, 2004 and registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950, with the aim of providing children with the right nutrition to support their education.
Each Annamrita hi-tech kitchen is equipped with the best technology to aid bulk cooking, including heavy-weight vegetable-cutting, potato-peeling machines, steam cookers for fuel efficiency that also retain 100% of nutrients and an eco friendly infrastructure.
Dressed in clean work uniforms with caps and gloves, the cooks, start preparing for the meals by cutting the vegetables and cleaning the rice and dal from 3 A.M. in the morning. Meals are cooked in steam-jacketed cauldrons, which have an individual capacity of 300 Kgs.
With the best of gadgets and modern facilities, the kichdi is cooked in 45 minutes, packed and loaded onto vehicles in sealed containers to reach their destinations well-within the stipulated time.
The vehicles are daily washed on the inside and outside, the air cleared within no time through a modern ventilation system after everything is over, the kitchen washed, scrubbed and kept thoroughly clean after every round of preparations, and the place locked up for the night, with military-like precision, needing no goading nor forced supervision but only a devotion of a high standard to see the task through with love and affection for the beneficiaries of their task.
Incidentally the correct ingredient mix for the recipe is computerized and the list of ingredients fed to maintain the same taste day after day
Distributed in one or two rounds as per the strength of the schools within their ambit, for every Annamrita kitchen the desired objective of getting for every school child the midday meal on the dot daily is achieved unfailingly.
More needs to be done and IFRF hopes to cover more and more ground in the coming years, to get underprivileged schoolchildren in all parts of India to benefit from Annamrita.
If you believe you too could contribute in some way, in whatever manner you please, to see that some needy child has at least one mid day meal every day, do get in touch with IFRF or visit http://www.annamrita.org