Nourish Dreams, Defeat Hunger

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When the lunch bell rings, you can hear the blissful cries of children with big smiles on their faces, eagerly waiting in line to receive their piping hot meals. Tummies filled with locally palatable food, their personalities shine with beautiful smiles, and their joyous chit chat will soothe your soul.

The dedicated kitchen team members behind ISKCON Nepal work tirelessly each day to prepare food for the 26 community schools in Budhanilkantha and Tokha Municipalities. Their skill and commitment make it possible to provide nourishing meals for the students in these areas. For the past nine years since its genesis, Food for Life Nepal has worked for the welfare of children. Since the construction of a centralised modular kitchen with state-of-the-art technology by the Embassy of Japan in 2019, the ‘School Lunch Preparation Centre' has operated as a centralised kitchen. If, by chance, you happen to walk by the area at 6 a.m. in the morning, you can hear heavy utensils clanking. These sounds are resonating far and wide, signifying warm meals being cooked for the little students.

Proper nutrition is important for children’s intellectual and physical growth. The organisation realises that schoolchildren perform better academically with a nutritious meal filling their stomachs; this philosophy is why Food for Life Nepal existed in the first place. It serves humanity by providing nutritious meals to the community, especially to needy children. The organisation started by serving meals to a relatively small number of 18 children in 2014. Today, the organisation serves over 10,000 meals every school day to government schoolchildren. 

There are approximately 3,500,000 students in public schools all over Nepal. The majority of the students who are enrolled in government schools are from financially challenged backgrounds. The government schools have been facing challenges in providing meals to students, with budget being the primary concern. To address this issue, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology started the programme 'Diva Khaja’ under the national budget in 2017, where each student would be allocated Rs. 15 per child, which was a huge step towards eliminating classroom hunger. Though this was a commendable move due to inflation and rising costs, the fund was not sufficient for a proper, nutritious meal.

The organisation contacts the school administrators and implements their mid-day meal plan for schools in need of the 'Diva Khaja' programme. This programme features six meals for six days (except for government holidays), ensuring that students in the school get to fill their stomachs without having to compromise their health by relying on junk food. The programme's positive impact was evident in enhanced academic performance as proper nutrition improved the health status of the children. This, in turn, fostered regular attendance at school, ensuring a consistent and uninterrupted learning experience for the students.

The organisation is not only limited to deprived schoolchildren; they have also expanded their operations by featuring packages like the meals for the frontline pack. This provision ensured that the frontline health workers got the nutrition they deserved during the peak of COVID-19. Around 20,000 frontline workers got proper meals during such a precarious period. Soon after the registration of the organisation in 2015, an earthquake hit Nepal with strong blows. Our team sprang into action to set up relief kitchens that served more than 3,00,000 earthquake victims over the course of a month, situated at different locations such as Nuwakot, Panauti, Bhaktapur, Tudhikhel, Sakhu, Budhanilkantha, etc. Not only that, they had also set up 44 shelters for earthquake victims. The organisation had also announced the giveaway of Happiness Kits in 2020, which helped the schoolchildren keep up with stationary requirements and encouraged them to attend classes after more than a year and a half of social distancing. It has hosted other significant activities, such as awareness campaigns, clothes drives, and dental hygiene awareness programmes, for the overall holistic development of children and community schools.

Aiming to eradicate hunger as a barrier to education, the organisation aspires to expand its reach and ensure no child in Nepal faces educational deprivation due to hunger. With a strong commitment to serving the hungry, it has gained support from prominent international organisations, including Dr. Jacob’s Medical, and local bodies. Kumari Bank Limited had also sponsored meals for the children of Jana Jagriti Secondary School in 2022. By relieving children of concerns about their stomachs, the organisation enables them to concentrate on their aspirations for success. The goal is to support the dreams of 25,000 children daily within the next decade.

(The author is an Executive Manager at Food for Life Nepal.)

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