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May 25, 2023
Annapoorna Trust is a recipient of an Impact Grant from Toast.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, as a part of its Pledge 1% commitment. Headquartered in India, Annapoorna serves over 1 million schoolchildren across the country—who would otherwise go hungry until midday—with their morning nutrition program. As a supplement to government programs that provide lunch during the day, Annapoorna offers popular breakfast programs that support children’s nutrition, along with their growth and attendance at school.
Since 2012, Annapoorna has served over 145 million meals, and expanded its reach to include healthcare and educational opportunities, proving the power of food that goes far beyond mealtime. The Toast.org Spotlight Series highlights outstanding organizations dedicated to enriching the food experience for all.
Annapoorna Trust is a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in India that is committed to supporting children in rural areas of the country with nutrition and other programs. We spoke with Vivek Kumar, Operations Manager at Annapoorna to learn more about their programs and the impact they’ve been able to drive for over a million schoolchildren.
According to the UN, one-fourth of all undernourished people in the world reside in India, and as the nation grows to become the most populous country in the world, it faces a unique set of challenges to support its people. Poverty is often the root of a cyclical problem, as parents struggle to feed their children, which can lead to sending them to work at a young age.
“The problem is that these are people who are not very keen to have their children study because if they start working early, they can start earning early,” said Kumar.
While many schools offer lunch, partly as an incentive to come to school, children often have trouble focusing and learning as many will not have eaten since the midday meal from the previous day.
“A lot of children can't afford dinner and when they come to the school, they are starting on an empty stomach,” said Kumar. “They don’t have any energy to focus on the studies or the skills that they can gain in the schools. They are just waiting for the next meal to be served.”
This is where Annapoorna Trust comes in. The cornerstone of their morning nutrition program is SaiSure, a nutrient-dense supplement, usually mixed with milk, that is given out in the morning before school and has proven not only effective, but very popular.
“Children are rushing to schools to get that glass of milk. We bring a chocolate flavor, and children love chocolate, right?” said Kumar.
Thanks to Annapoorna, in places where teachers used to go door-to-door to get kids to schools, attendance has grown to 100%, all thanks to a morning glass of milk.
“We’re addressing hidden hunger because we bring micronutrients. BMIs, hemoglobin levels, and overall health is improved,” said Kumar. “The more qualitative impact is that they come to school, the attendance has increased, dropout rates have decreased, and of course, they are able to concentrate more on their studies.”
SaiSure is extremely cost-effective — $1 USD can feed about 12 children. Kumar explains the ripple effect that this seemingly simple program can have — parents are more inclined to send children to school (and not to work) when they are offered a free meal, and children with full bellies are able to focus on learning, ultimately developing skills that can benefit society as a whole.
“You know what we do, it's just a glass of milk, maybe with some powder mixed in it,” said Kumar. “It seems a simple intervention, a very, very cost effective one, but it takes a huge burden off the shoulders of parents, and there’s an individual effect on each and every child.”
Having proven the effectiveness of this model, Annapoorna is also in talks with the Indian State governments to further expand the program to feed 3 million children which, according to Annapoorna, would make them the largest privately-funded intervention program in India.
Like starting with that first meal of the day, Annapoorna’s morning nutrition program is just the beginning of the organization’s impactful work. Through partnerships with other nonprofits, they also offer much-needed healthcare, expanded education programs, as well as water and sanitation for thousands of children and families. With the grant from Toast.org, Annapoorna was able to expand its clean drinking water program, which offers schoolchildren water, and uses the same potable water to serve hundreds of additional cooked breakfasts to students along India’s coast.
Recently, the Prime Minister of India designated one of their universities, Sri Madhusudan Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, as the first free medical college.
“Right now we are serving 5,000 children through our educational intervention, free of cost,” said Kumar. “If you want to be a doctor, you can study with us.”
Vivek Kumar is Manager of Operations at Annapoorna Trust, where he helps manage relationships with the government and other charity partners, while managing programs in Northern India (where he is originally from). Having completed Yale University’s summer course in writing in the United States, he worked for several years at The Times of India before transitioning to the philanthropy space.
You can learn more about Annapoorna Trust on their website, and connect with them on Instagram and LinkedIn.
This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content.
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