Akshaya Patra – How To Make 1.5 Million Meals In Less Than 5 Hours

The mid-day meal program was launched by the Government of India in the mid-1960s, and is the largest school-lunch program in the world, feeding 120 million students across the country. The Akshaya Patra Foundation started its own initiative in 2000 to provide mid day meals to 1500 school-going children across 5 schools in Bangalore. In 2006, the two collaborated to exponentially increase their social impact, and to take a big step in helping India meet its Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary education.

At present, Akshaya Patra Foundation provides freshly cooked and nutritious lunch to more than 1.5 million school-going children in 9,692 government schools across 9 states and 1 Union Territory. The Better India Team recently visited the enormous centralized kitchen at Vasanthapura in Bangalore, and came away thoroughly impressed by the scale of operations, the complexity and the attention to detail.

Many times, the mid-day meal is the only food these children get to eat in the entire day, and it forms one of the biggest incentives for them to come to school. An example of a successful public-private partnership with a large-scale social impact, the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal program has been able to achieve outstanding cost and delivery efficiency by employing innovative technology, superlative management skills and smart engineering. Come take a tour of their Centralized Kitchen with us, so that you can see for yourself how 100,000 meals are prepared.
Many times, the mid-day meal is the only food these children get to eat in the entire day, and it forms one of the biggest incentives for them to come to school. An example of a successful public-private partnership with a large-scale social impact, the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal program has been able to achieve outstanding cost and delivery efficiency by employing innovative technology, superlative management skills and smart engineering. Come take a tour of their Centralized Kitchen with us, so that you can see for yourself how 100,000 meals are prepared.
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Akshaya Patra Foundation Helps Jammu Kashmir Flood Victims

Helping the needy is not charity but our social responsibility! Akshaya Patra Foundation, Ahmedabad demonstrates this by supporting flood relief services in Jammu and Kashmir by providing 75,000 packets of food which comprised of over 3 lakh rotis prepared at the new centralised kitchen. From the shop level staff to the Managerial cadre everyone contributed their services to this cause.

Mid-Day Meal NGO in Gujarat

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Gujarat is one of the key locations where The Akshaya Patra Foundation implements the mid-day meal scheme. Serving as a NGO in Gujarat, the Foundation feeds 400,158 children across 1,653 Government schools covering Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. Seeing the positive impact of the mid-day meal scheme and the need to make it available to more children, the Foundation recently inaugurated its Ahmedabad kitchen. This kitchen will replace the NGO’s Gandhinagar kitchen and is one of the largest kitchens of its kind in the country. With this kitchen, the NGO in Gujarat will provide free school meal to the children of both Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar districts. It was a strategic move to open the new kitchen without hindering the mid-day meal distribution for the existing beneficiaries of Gandhinagar.

This NGO in Gujarat has centralised kitchen facility in all the three serving locations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. The kitchen-wise reach of the NGO in Gujarat are as follows: Ahmedabad kitchen serves 121,508 children across 666 Government schools; Vadodara kitchen feeds 113,593 in 616 Government schools and Surat kitchen provides mid-day meal to 165,057 across 371 Government schools. The mid-day meal scheme has shown various positive impacts on the lives of millions of children in Gujarat and across all serving states and locations. Witnessing the significance, Akshaya Patra aims to expand its operations in many more locations in the near future.
However, it is sure that the NGO will require extensive support from the Government and society too. Like any other NGO, donations received by Akshaya Patra are also immensely significant and helpful. Strategic planning and management of the mid-day meal scheme implementation has enabled Akshaya Patra to invest 82% of the total cost as programme cost, 14% as programme management cost and 4% towards fund-raising and communication. This Indian NGO functions in the Public-Private Partnership model where about 51% cost is incurred as a support from Central Government and various State Governments in the form of grants and subsidies. But, the remaining 49% is to be borne by the NGO and this is where NGO donations play a vital role. Since inception in June 2000, Akshaya Patra has been grateful to many helping hands that came forward to support the Foundation’s cause. It is this support that led path for the Foundation to expand its services from being a NGO in Karnataka to the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and as a NGO in Gujarat.
The Foundation aims to feed 5 million children by 2020. As of 2014, the total reach of the NGO is 1.4 million children across India. It indeed is in need of resources to sustain implementation of the mid-day meal scheme in existing locations while expanding to newer locations. NGO donations either from individuals, organisations or in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility initiative will all aid in steering the efforts of the Foundation towards achieving its mission.

Contribute NGO donations to provide wholesome meal for the underserved children.

Akshaya Patra opens a new kitchen at Jodhpur

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is thrilled to announce the opening of its 22nd kitchen in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Operational since August 2013, this centralised kitchen caters to a total of 12,139 school children across 147 government and Madrasa schools.

This latest addition brings the total division of Akshaya Patra kitchens to 20 centralised and 2 decentralised kitchens across India. Jodhpur marks the fourth kitchen opened by Akshaya Patra in the state of Rajasthan, now increasing the total feeding figures of the state to 135,910 school children across 1,830 schools every day.

Being a centralised kitchen, this location will have the operational capacity to undertake large scale feeding as can be seen by the large volume of children benefitting from this new venture. All the Akshaya Patra kitchens utilise Food Safety Management Systems making sure of safe handling, preparation and delivery of the tasty, nutritious mid-day meals to the schools. The kitchen is highly mechanised ensuring that high standards of quality and hygiene are maintained at all times by lowering the opportunity for any human contact with the food.

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation believes that no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger. Today Akshaya Patra is reaching out to over 1.3 million children across 10,631 government schools every day. This latest kitchen at Jodhpur marks a significant step toward fulfilling Akshaya Patra’s mission of feeding 5 million children by 2020.

Akshaya Patra can only grow with the support and dedication of its well-wishers. If you wish to help the children in need, donate or volunteer with The Akshaya Patra Foundation, and help provide Food for Education to the young ones in need.

How The Akshaya Patra Foundation Serves 1.5 Million School Lunches Across India Every Day

Throughout the twenty years in which I have been working with social entrepreneurs, non-profits and activists, nothing has inspired me like the Akshaya Patra Foundation, based in Bangalore, India.

In less than 12 years, Akshaya Patra has grown to become one of the world’s largest and most effective NGO’s.  Started in 2001 in Bangalore, Akshaya Patra provides school lunch, or a midday meal, to 1.5 million children daily across India – nearly 330 million meals cooked, delivered and eaten every year.  Its meteoric rise – and the collaboration of government, donors and communities in that rise, is a story that I hope many NGO’s and social entrepreneurs can tell in the next decades.

As a former Board member, I am most interested in the ability of this organization to scale, because this has the greatest ramifications for social entrepreneurs everywhere.  We tend to celebrate the social entrepreneur with the new idea but do not expect them to achieve the same level of impact as we do of the private companies we invest in.  But if we are truly to call these individuals and their organizations “entrepreneurs” then we must hold out the same expectations for them – of reaching a scale and achieving an impact that reverberates through society.

India has nearly 130 million children of school age.  And of that, about 100 million are enrolled in school.  And as one would expect, the schools are of varying quality.  However India’s public and private sectors agree that the availability of a nutritious midday meal is critical to driving attendance of boys and girls, improving cognitive abilities and providing children with the energy to learn in the classroom.  Thus India has a fairly sophisticated set of policies, enforced by India’s Supreme Court, that require schools to provide a school lunch to their students, and that NGO’s could be the provider along with government agencies.  And while multiple agencies have received contracts to provide a midday meal, almost none of them focused solely on the midday meal.  Any good entrepreneur knows the importance of focus.  In addition, many of these agencies were education providers, but relatively inexperienced in the areas of food, supply chain and nutrition.  In many ways, Akshaya Patra has succeeded because of its ability to stay focused on the midday meal, but to attack the complexities of the problem head on.

The roots of its success lie in its beginnings.  Akshaya Patra was started by two distinct groups of professionals who were able to integrate their multidisciplinary perspectives.  The first group was the leadership of ISKCON, a faith-based group in India.  These leaders were trained as engineers and worked in the private sector before their religious service.  They brought a tradition of service to people, and experience cooking for thousands of people at a time at their temples.  The second group consisted of senior executives at Infosys and other Indian technology companies. They have spent the last thirty years solving complex global problems for many of the world’s largest companies.  When the two groups came together, they decided to focus on addressing a specific challenge in India that has cascading effects.  And they decided to focus on scalability from the start.

They brought the best thinking in manufacturing, supply chain, innovation and logistics management to create a central kitchen model whereby food is centrally cooked and delivered by truck to local schools.  The kitchen’s, many of which are ISO-9000 certified, are really food factories, capable of cooking food daily for up to 200,000 people each.  Food preparation begins at 3:00am and the food makes its way through a modern conveyer process until it’s loaded onto specially-built trucks around 7:00am that can deliver food to government (public) schools using a hub-and-spoke routing system.

The cost – is just $0.08 per meal per child – or about $28 per year.

The ability to constantly maintain a quality product, to provide it at scale, and at a low price are traits we would expect of the most successful companies in the world.  How does Akshaya Patra do it?  In addition to the process outlined above, it also constantly innovates – including using data analytics, cooking using clean energies and constantly improving ingredients to have healthier food – while keeping the cost the same.  It hires the best talent available – experts from India’s best schools and companies, and pays them a comfortable wage.  And it maintains strong corporate governance with boards, auditors and others joining in.

And it has spent a lot of time thinking about the model for scale.  It turned out that the changes in India’s demographics and geography meant that the central kitchen model could work in most of India – regardless of the romanticism of India being a nation of villages.  It also turned out that many large companies and wealthy families would pay for the construction of kitchens in their communities.  And it turns out that India’s growing middle class is more than willing to donate Rs. 1200 a year ($28) to feed a child.  And most importantly, India’s central and state governments have shown an unwavering commitment to funding the midday meal program – providing cash, land, rice and lentils to Akshaya Patra and other NGO’s providing school lunch.  The government support accounts for about 40% of the funds, with the rest coming from private sources.

For the near future, the biggest challenge facing Akshaya Patra and India around the midday meal program will be scale.  While Akshaya Patra reaches 1.5 million children daily, that still only reaches 1% of the children of school age in India.  The organization is striving to reach 5 million by 2020.  This would be astounding for an NGO, but would only be 3% of Indian school children.  Indian policy makers, philanthropists and NGO’s have not yet decided how to scale the concept around Akshaya Patra – of a centralized kitchen using best-in-class production systems, processes and supply chain.  This will entail significant training across India.  It will also require a significant funding commitment by government and private donors. And it will require a third-party organization that can continue to monitor quality so the health of the children remains a priority.

As we celebrate the breakthrough innovations of social entrepreneurs everywhere, let us also keep one eye on their progress, knowing that there are NGO’s that can scale quickly when the right talent, policy and model can come together.

Nish Acharya

Senior Advisor, Northeastern University

Akshaya Patra opens kitchen in Cuttack

The Akshaya Patra Foundation on Tuesday opened its 22nd midday meal kitchen in Cuttack.Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated the kitchen in the presence of Kusuma Foundation chairman General Surat Singh Sandhu, country leader Pankaj Vinayak Sharma and Akshaya Patra Foundation chairman Madhu Pandit Das.

According to a release, the kitchen is fully equipped with modern accessories to cook meals on a large-scale. The kitchen includes boilers, rice cleaning machines, cold storage, custom-made utensils and conveyor belts along with packing and distribution facilities.

The food will be transported to schools using custom-designed vehicles which are heat-insulated and dust-free to retain the freshness of meals. The 20 distribution vehicles will transport hot and nutritious meals from the centralised kitchen to 45,000 children in 190 schools every day. The kitchen has the capacity to prepare and distribute up to 1 lakh meals from 2015.

Everyday about 5.5 tons of rice, 3.5 tons of vegetable and 1.2 tonnes of dal will be cooked. This is the third centralised kitchen opened in Odisha, the release informed.

FOOD CONTAMINATION AT AKSHAYA PATRA KITCHEN RULED OUT

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Public Health Institute (PHI) report confirms food was safe.

It may be recalled that on Friday, September 19, 2014, some students of Government Urdu Higher Primary School, DJ Halli, Bangalore, had complained of stomach ache and vomiting. As reported in the media, about 350 students were rushed to Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College & Hospital. The students were under observation for a few hours and all of them were discharged the same evening as there were no serious medical issues.

The leftover of the food from the school was sent for investigation to the State Public Health Institute (PHI). Today the PHI has released their report and has said that the count of E-Coli and Coliform pathogens are within safe limits (PHI report enclosed).

The media hadalso reported that a dead lizard was found in one of the rice container in the school on Sept 19th. The PHI report also says that there were no traces of Salmonella bacteria, which is associated with lizard poisoning.

Akshaya Patra has a protocol for testing& documenting the ingredients that are used in it’s kitchens on a periodic basis from certified NABL accredited laboratories apart from following well established in-house quality control protocols .

Akshaya Patra reaffirms its commitment to provide safe nutritious food to the school going children. Akshaya Patra kitchens are ISO 22000 certified, which involves Good Hygiene practices (GHP), Good House-keeping practices, Good manufacturing practices,strict documentation of the various stages of production process, tracking all critical points in the process flow, periodic training of kitchen staff on safe food handling, etc.

Akshaya Patra also affirms a culture of continuous improvement to make the food served daily to children is safe, nutritious and tasty. In the entire Akshaya Patra cooking process there is minimum human handling to ensure hygiene and food safety.

Akshaya Patra invites government officials, school teachers, public leaders, media representatives, etc. to make a visit to the kitchen, with or without prior notice, to understand the process and precautions we follow. We also welcome any suggestions for further improvement.

Akshaya Patra requests the support of the government, donors and media in our humble efforts to serve school-going children with mid-day meals and support their nutrition and education.