Annapoorna Trust secretary’s address at TEDx Event, ELPRO International School Pune

Mr. Anand Kadali, Executive Secretary and Trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust, was the keynote speaker for TEDx talk held at ELPRO International School Pune, on 10th Febuary 2024.


He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from GITAM in Vizag and an MBA from ICFAI University. With a background of over 15 years in the corporate world, Anand made a significant transition to pursue his life’s passion for community service on a full-time basis. He has extensive experience in global organisations, including Hewlett Packard, HCL, and Dimension Data, specialising in computer networking and security. He is also a Certified Independent Director.


In his talk, Anand reflects back upon his journey on the importance of nutrition and the potential it has to ensure that young children perform better in school. Beginning his talk by saying he represented the rural school-going children, he said working at the grassroots, this program is close to his heart. ‘Rural children attend schools and wait for the mid-day meals to be served as that is the only meal they have after nearly 18 hours of fasting,’ he said. It started in 2012 as a small activity serving breakfast to about 50 children in a government school on the outskirts of Bengaluru. He said the inner call came to him when, one day, a child came up to him as he was leaving and asked him to come with food every day. Thus, the journey began with a commitment to providing daily nutritious meals to underprivileged students, recognizing that the path to a brighter future starts with a well-fed present.


To listen to the full talk:


Anand, along with his wife and a couple of friends, started serving these 50 children on a daily basis. ‘We had to juggle between our jobs, find time to go to school, drive about 20km in the morning, serve the children in the rural hamlet, and again travel 40 km to the office. I ended up traveling 100km every day,’ he said. But he said that this would not stop them. Additionally, there was a financial burden that challenged him. Even that could not stop him because he said he found his source of happiness in the bright, eagerly waiting faces of the children. Further, he added that the happy faces, in fact, were a blessing that provided happiness to him. The disappearing collar bones and the little arm circumferences stirred their hearts to relentlessly work for these children through the morning nutrition program every day.


He highlighted the ripple effects of this program being increased metabolism, energised body and mind, strong immunity, motivation of children to study well, and improved academic performances, in addition to reduced dropouts and punctuality as the morning nutrition was provided before the classes started. He said the children were otherwise fainting in the assembly hall. ‘Besides these, the teachers are encouraged to teach the students better now rather than teaching to empty stomachs,’ he said. There was encouragement from the local vendors who supplied food ingredients because they got business from this program, and finally, this immensely helped the parents, especially labourers who could not afford to feed their children in the wee hours of the morning.


Explaining how a small group expanded, he said volunteers on their own joined this program and prepared breakfast a little more when they cooked for their own families, and thus nearly 20-25 families joined in to prepare breakfast every day for these children. He emphasized that a simple selfless effort and willingness is enough to do a good act. Further sharing about his personal financial challenges, half of his salary being spent on these children, he said he felt the need for support from more people and hence approached his friends, colleagues, community people, etc. They started celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, etc, along with their children in the school, thus making them understand the need to give back to society.

In 2017, soon the number of children increased to 1 lakh children, and by 2018, with the inner calling to take this work full-time, he quit his job. He said, ‘When I used to bring even small things like stationery articles for my children, I would bring 100 or 200 more for the children in rural areas as well. This transformation was happening in me, and I felt this is what is the purpose of my life,’ he said.


Moving to the rural hinterland of Chikkaballapur to work full-time, he said the Trust (established in 2015) started working on getting support from the government (sarkara), institutions/corporates/NGOs (sansthan), and local bodies/school staff (samaja), the 3S principle, and they came forward to work for this cause. In 2019-20, the Trust reached out to 5 lakh children in 17 states and 3 union territories with MoUs made with respective state governments. Support of cooks, school staff, and the support of donors added more value to this cause for efficient execution. But when COVID hit, he said the Trust continued serving the children and their families by providing daily rations to help their livelihood. In the process, 100 staff members were recruited.


He spoke about how, in August 2022, the program was restarted with innovations and collaborations with many partners by introducing micronutrient health drinks, chikkis or protein bars, cookies, or fresh fruits for morning nutrition, provided absolutely free of cost. Presently strong in South India, he said the Trust is making inroads into north and northeastern states. With MoUs and District permissions in place, he said that to sustain the program, the Trust would see to it that the government itself takes up this morning nutrition program later on. He mentioned that currently, the Trust reaches out to 30 lakh children across 40,000 schools in 25 states and 5 union territories with the support of nearly 50 corporate partners, 600+ volunteers, and 55000+ school staff.


He urged the assembled audience to identify a government school and take up an activity to give back to society that will touch their hearts, be it a simple distribution of essentials or helping the children in academics or even scholarships. Sharing his vision of the way forward, he said the Trust were working towards reaching 10 million children this year. He mentioned about the upcoming launch in the state of Karnataka and said it would address a significant milestone of serving 10 million children.


In his concluding remarks, he said he learned a community-centric approach, working proactively on the ground, talking to them, and understanding how one can work together with collaborations and innovations i.e. not confining to only cooked breakfast but rather opening up to easier ways of nutrition intervention, and finally to be cautious about finance, to manage spending for a sustainable practice.

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