The 25th of May 2017 was not your average Thursday.
We were all excited about participating in AMFAM DAY but there’s a huge difference between reading the mission statement A MEAL FOR YOU = A WHOLE YEAR OF SCHOOL LUNCHES FOR ONE CHILD and actually believing it’s possible.
Dipika Khaitan, the Executive Director of The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK says it’s now a perfectly normal thing for her to think (they provide 1.6 million meals to impoverished children every day, after all) but to me there’s something Feeding the 5000 about it that I’m still trying to get my head around. Dipika kindly took the time to speak to me about it.
The day was a raging success – it’s difficult to put a number on what was raised so far and the charity are still waiting for the figures to come in from all the external companies that came together to make it happen, but the excitement in Dipika’s voice was tangible.
The business model is remarkably simple. Employees pay £5 for lunch (which the entire Aldrich office can testify was delicious) the company matches that, and the Indian Government then matches the collective sum. While gains are escalated, costs are minimised – everyone who works in the kitchens is paid, but the Senior Executives work for love of the project and command much less senior salaries than might be expected. Land is donated to the cause, the Government provides rice for free, and teams of volunteers go into schools every day. Children are incentivised to go and so get an education, and learn far more effectively than they would on an empty stomach. The whole operation runs on streamlined dedication and spirituality.
This is the first time they’ve run an AMFAM day, and the response to the idea has been fantastic – inundated with last minute orders, they found people donating £10 each, rather than waiting for the company to match their donation, and in raising awareness of the cause the lunch became almost unnecessary when people found out that £10 was all it took to make such a difference and gave the money directly. This means next year they hope to be able to engage more small businesses to provide and deliver meals, pay them, and allow the whole concept to flourish in a mutually beneficial way.
After our phone call, I’m no less flabbergasted at the beauty and simplicity of the idea, although it was fascinating to get an insight into the support and logistics underpinning the initiative.
We’re already looking forward to supporting AMFAM 2018 – watch this space.