It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and India was badly hit with more than 3.9 lakh deaths till date and the positivity rate seeing a huge surge in April-May 2021. While the situation is gradually improving now, health and medical workers have been working tirelessly to help people tide over the pandemic.

Among the many unsung heroes who were at the forefront of fighting this pandemic were the crematorium workers and hearse van drivers. Across metro cities, with the rising number of Coronavirus-related deaths, these groups were working round the clock. However, due to the lockdowns and restrictions on movement, arranging food for them was a challenge.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, the Bangalore-based NGO renowned for providing nutritious mid-day meals in schools, teamed up with Amazon India and BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to deliver hot cooked food and safe drinking water to crematoriums in Bengaluru. 1450 hot cooked meals – comprising local staples such as bisi bele bath, dal, rice, curd etc. and a bottle of water – were being distributed every day to crematorium workers and hearse van drivers till June 30. Apart from funding, Amazon is also leveraging its expertise in logistics and operations to support Akshaya Patra's initiative.

Speaking about this initiative, Sridhar Venkat, CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation, says, “Akshaya Patra is a firm believer in the collective effort for the betterment of society. The success of its initiatives is directly dependent on the collaborations and the partnerships it has built over the years. One such remarkable partnership is with Amazon. As part of its COVID-19 food relief efforts, Akshaya Patra, with the support of Amazon, served hot cooked meals to crematorium staff, ambulance drivers and relatives of the deceased at 14 crematoriums across Bengaluru. Through this collaboration, we would have served more than 50,000 meals in these crematoriums. We were addressing a critical issue of hunger here, and I am truly grateful to Amazon for assisting us with funds as well as logistics to make this initiative impactful.”

Amazon's last mile teams were enabling the delivery of food to the crematoriums, in tandem with the Akshaya Patra operation teams. Every day, Amazon vehicles would collect the meal packets cooked and packed at the Akshaya Patra kitchen in Vasanthpura, and then deliver them to 14 locations across the city of Bengaluru. The project, which started on May 24, 2021, will have covered 51,000 meals by June 30, across 14 crematoriums of Bangalore. Delivery associates and other staff participated in this initiative beyond their regular work-day to contribute towards this cause.

“People were facing lack of food and water around crematoriums due to shops and hotels being shut. They were very happy and grateful to receive freshly cooked meals every day now,” says Arun Kumar, Senior Manager of Operations, Akshaya Patra.

“Amazon has been actively involved in supporting the pandemic relief in India during the second wave on multiple fronts including critical oxygen support. We look to continuously support communities in need through our unique capabilities, and we are grateful for this opportunity to distribute hot food to crematorium workers, who have been at the forefront when it came to dealing with the horrific impact of COVID-19.”, says Anita Kumar, Head – Amazon in the Community, India

Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the Akshaya Patra Foundation has been actively implementing feeding programs across the country, bringing relief to those impacted the most. Amazon India had also supported Akshaya Patra’s COVID-19 food relief efforts in 2020 through donation for grocery boxes. It has also been collaborating with AP to support the Karnataka government’s Ksheera Bhagya scheme which serves hot glass of nutritionally enriched milk to 200000 children in government and government-aided schools.