The Los Angeles Chapter of the Akshaya Patra Foundation USA hosted an evening of festivity to celebrate Diwali and kick off the holiday season Nov. 17 at its annual fundraising gala held at the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Garden Grove, Calif.

About 400 philanthropic leaders, business executives, socially conscious individuals and youth ambassadors were present at the event.

Highlights of the evening included a speech by youth ambassador Jahnavi Mehta, who took the initiative to visit a kitchen in India and teach martial arts to children at an Akshaya Patra school in Bangalore. Her involvement and enthusiasm to share her gifts with the Akshaya Patra school children was inspiring for everyone.

Vandana Tilak, Indian American CEO of Akshaya Patra USA, spoke about the growth of the organization throughout the U.S., and the vision for the future. “By 2020, the goal is to feed five million school children daily,” she said.

There was a huge outpouring of support from the audience to make that vision a reality. As a spontaneous gesture of support, Manu Shah, Jasvant Modi and Mahesh Wadher pledged to fund the upcoming Mumbai Kitchen for $500,000.

The evening concluded with a rousing musical performance by Bollywood’s finest playback singers, Samir Date and Dipalee Somaiya Date. Based in Mumbai, the husband and wife duo are well-known for their immense contribution to the film industry. Samir has worked with the likes of Yash Chopra, Asha Bhosle, Bappi Lahiri, Raam Laxman, Ekta Kapoor and many others.

In a perfect Diwali fashion, the crowd gathered in front of the stage to dance to old Bollywood songs.

Akshaya Patra will continue its fundraising efforts through the Giving Tuesday campaign on Facebook Nov. 27.

Akshaya Patra’s mission that “no child should be deprived of an education due to hunger” is the largest NGO-managed mid-day meal program in the world, according to Time magazine.

In 2000, the organization’s pilot program served 1,500 children daily in five schools. Today, the organization feeds 1.75 million school children daily in 14,125 schools across 12 states.

The state-of-the-art kitchens provide fresh, nutritious hot meals to counter the issues of malnutrition and support the right to an education for children from socio-economically deprived backgrounds.

To le​arn more about the Akshaya Patra Foundation, visit ​

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