Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, through ISKCON’s Annamrita Midday Meal Scheme, will sponsor free meals for 1,000 underprivileged children. (IANS photo)

MUMBAI — Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will sponsor free meals for 1,000 underprivileged children under the Annamrita Midday Meal Scheme of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, an official said here Nov. 6.

Her decision, which came on the occasion of her 44th birthday Nov. 1, will be of immense benefit to the children, said Radhanath Swami Maharaj, head of ISKCON.

He said the Annamrita Foundation’s midday meal scheme, which was launched in 2004 in a small room with 900 meals, has now grown to serve over 1.20 million children in seven states, through 20 hi-tech ISO certified kitchens.

Recalling the roots behind the idea, Radhanath Swami said his guru, Bhaktivedanta Shrila Prabhupad had once witnessed a dog and a child fighting over a food packet thrown in a dustbin and the incident had left him shaken.

“He then instructed all his devotees that no child in a 10-mile radius of the ISKCON Temple should go hungry. The temple has been distributing Krishna Prasad in the form of ‘khichdi’ since the past 13 years to poor people in the vicinity and lakhs more through the Annamrita Foundation projects,” he said.

“The Annamrita Scheme envisages that no child should be deprived of education due to the lack of healthy wholesome meals. Schools have reported an increase in attendance and performance levels where the Annamrita meals are being served,” Radhanath Swami added.

Recently the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation partnered with ISKCON to provide midday meals to 5,099 students of classes 9 and 10 in 17 civic-run schools.

As per the current state policy, midday meal schemes are implemented only for students from classes 1 to 8 in these schools, but there is an acute need for meals for underprivileged students even in the higher classes, leading to the initiative.

“However as there is an acute need for providing nutritious food to the underprivileged students of classes 9 and 10 we have started this unique initiative” said an official from the education department.

This project was inaugurated Nov. 2 at Rabale Municipal Secondary School by Navi Mumbai Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane, Municipal Commissioner N. Ramaswami, Additional Municipal Commissioner Ramesh Chavan, education officer Sandeep Sanghave and other dignitaries.

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