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God’s Own Kitchen – Author Rashmi Bansal Chronicles Akshaya Patra’s Journey

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A significant journey – one that inspires and restores people’s faith in all that is good in the world – always had the humblest of beginnings. Akshaya Patra’s voyage for the cause of ‘unlimited food for education’ also started in a similar fashion in the year 2000. Now, the Foundation operates the world’s largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Programme, nourishing over 1.6 million children across India with its mid-day meals every day. This wonderful journey is now chronicled in a book titled God’s Own Kitchen by renowned author Rashmi Bansal.

Engagingly told by Ms Bansal, the book’s narrative is conversational and free-flowing. It tells Akshaya Patra’s tale in a deeply personal manner, with insights into the minds of its founders, when the organisation was in its nascent stage. Behind the force that is Akshaya Patra lays the sweat and determination it workforce – past and present. The book introduces many key figures of the Foundation to the reader, including its current Chairman Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa; Vice Chairman Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa; Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services, TV Mohandas Pai, who has made significant contributions to the Foundation, among others.

God’s Own Kitchen is also interspersed with interesting anecdotes. The setting up of new kitchens in different locations is always a challenging task and their backstories are quite amusing. India is a vast and varied country and every region has its peculiar sociocultural norms. These presented testing obstacles when it came to recruiting and training womenfolk in socially conservative regions, law and order scares, blurring the lines of social classes among children, so that they have their meals together in school, and the like. The book also throws light on how the organisation honed its famed hygiene practices and standards.

Over the years, the organisation has found support in many noted personalities from different walks of life. These include the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton; former President of India, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam; one of India’s foremost businessmen Ratan Tata. The book has exciting pictures and stories of their visits to Akshaya Patra, including a photo of a cheque of Rs 12,000 written by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam for Akshaya Patra!

Classroom hunger is a bane that needs to be destroyed immediately. As the author says in her note in the book, “Let us open our hearts, or minds and our wallets to eradicate hunger from this country. Students and CEOs, swamis and socialites – we can do this together.” The cause needs the support of a greater number of hearts and minds and what better way to chronicle Akshaya Patra’s tireless service to it, than this wonderful book!

You can buy God’s Own Kitchen here.

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Two words, one sentence. Thank You!

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Two words, one sentence. Thank You!

Our Mid-Day Meal Programme has received immense support and we are deeply grateful on behalf of all the children whose lives have been transformed and continue to be.

Today as we look back, we understand that internet and technology have played a key role in communicating our efforts and our initiatives. With the availability of advanced communication tools, reaching out to public for their support has been less of a challenge and more of an encouragement.

FirstWire Apps, a mobile application developer has helped us pro bono with developing an app for our official blog. With more than 100+ clients in blogging space alone, FirstWire Apps is committed to providing their service to a wide range of industries. To know more about their features, click here.

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Since 2010, we have been actively blogging about classroom hunger, food security, environment, educational rights, and in doing so, we have been inviting people to be a part of our perspective. Our words meet the eyes of readers via social media, website and of course, our blogging platform. With the new blogging app for Android users, we believe reading will be much easier!

                       Thanks to FirstWire Apps for their hour-long efforts in developing the app and for bringing in this change.

                                                                                                       You can download the app here.

 

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Akshaya Patra’s Passioneers are a tireless workforce!

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The year 2015-16 has been quite a special one for The Akshaya Patra Foundation. The organisation reached notable milestones, made new beginnings and received prestigious honours. The force behind the Foundation’s sustained momentum in serving the children of the nation, and its many achievements, is its dedicated workforce, toiling tirelessly behind the scenes, to serve its cause of ‘unlimited food for education’. The Akshaya Patra annual report for 2015-16 unmasks and celebrates these previously faceless entities.

Titled The Passioneers – Bound By Purpose. Driven By Passion, the report paints intimate portraits of people from the Foundation’s workforce, with beautifully done illustrations. These include stories of P Venkatesh in Ballari, who works as a driver, delivering Akshaya Patra’s food to the beneficiary schools; Meena Devi from Vrindavan, who cleans the crates, helps cut vegetables and cleans the dal. Then, there is Ved Prakash, who cleans the kitchen, the vessels and connectors in Vrindavan, along with handling many other processes. The annual report introduces us to many such employees, whose hard work and commitment has brought the organisation to its current position, where it stands tall and proud.

Having won numerous prestigious awards for its annual reports over the years, The Passioneers thus presents the organisation’s financials in its imaginative style. It reiterates the Foundation’s vision and mission of feeding 5 million children by 2020. Needless to say, it also includes the financial highlights for the year, accounting for every penny received by the Foundation, in a bid to maintain maximum transparency. Here are some important financials from the report:

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The year 2015-16 saw the organisation reach significant milestones, the biggest being the serving of 2 billion meals since its inception. In the same year, its Chairman, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, was conferred India’s fourth highest civilian award – the Padma Shri. The report carries excerpts from an interview with him, where he speaks about receiving this prestigious honour and how it will provide an impetus to the Foundation. Looking forward, the organisation has numerous plans for the future, which are touched upon in the annual report. Among these are mobile kitchens or ‘kitchen on wheels’ for providing meals to disaster-affected areas, along with cluster kitchens in Uttar Pradesh and Hub & Spoke model kitchens.

The future looks very promising for Akshaya Patra. The Passioneers  celebrates the tireless hands that hold up the Foundation and have been steadfast in their support over the years. Read all about them at  Annual Report 2015-16.

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16 years of Unlimited Food for Education

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation turns 16 on November 11, 2016. Through the years of Mid-Day Meal Programme to feed school children in India, the organisation has grown in leaps and bounds; we have built sustainable kitchens, expanded our beneficiary base, extended help during natural disasters, and we will stride towards feeding 5 million children by 2020!

16 years and 16 lakh children!

16 years ago, Akshaya Patra began a journey that would one day become the world’s largest NGO-run feeding programme.

Mid-Day Meal Programme – Unlimited Food for Education, started with a beneficiary base of 1,500 children and today, over 1.6 million children across the length and breadth of India are supported by this initiative. During all these years of transforming the lives of many children through quality food, Akshaya Patra has also created diversified work opportunities for many individuals who plan and execute our programme on a daily basis.

In the last few years, Akshaya Patra has overcome many challenges and continues to grow with support from the government, benevolent donors and well-wishers.  Our school lunch programme is meant to eliminate classroom hunger and encourage children to attend school. However, mid-day meal is more than just an incentive. It fills the gap of having to choose between education and work.

mile-stoneWith the help of donors, Akshaya Patra organises health check-up camps in beneficiary schools, distributes hygiene kits, school shoes, bags and other essentials to children. To ensure effective operations of Mid-Day Meal Programme, the Foundation also conducts training programmes for kitchen and operations staff on a regular basis.

Akshaya Patra’s 16 years of relentless efforts began with determination and compassion. We believe this journey will continue to impact many more children in the coming years. This year, as we complete the serving of 2 Billion Meals, the Foundation acknowledges the outpouring support it has received over the last few years.

Let’s make children our priority and ensure they receive the two most important elements that can define their later years – education and health.

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Akshaya Nidhi’s First Train Meal

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Akshaya Nidhi is a for-profit organization in the aid of The Akshaya Patra Foundation. It provides lunch to workers employed by the industrial and corporate sector at a modest price. Recently, they paired with IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) to offer travelers the option of ordering a meal that will aid The Akshaya Patra Foundation on their mission to feed 5 million children in India by 2020.

On June 29, 2016, the Shiva family was the first to order the meals. The Shiva family, originally from Chennai but now living in the United States, was on a trip to Puttaparthi. The vegetarian meals that the family enjoyed on their trip included: Curd Rice, Tomato Bath (Tomato Rice) and Chutney, Chapati and Sabji (vegetables), and Bisi Bele Bath and Boondi. Shiva’s daughter exclaimed that the food, “Tastes good!”

This new meal option will allow travelers to contribute to a good cause when booking their train itineraries. Currently, Akshaya Nidhi meals are only being served at Bangalore City Junction. The vegetarian menu includes: Curd Rice and Pickle, Puliyogare and Curd, Chapati and Sabji (vegetables), Bisi Bele Bath and Boondi, Tomato Bath (Tomato Rice) and Chutney, and Pulao and Raita. Prices range from Rs 70 to 90 with a minimum order amount of Rs 60.

These were the first meals served by The Akshaya Nidhi Foundation and hopefully just the first of many to come.

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Morgan Stanley Volunteers at Akshaya Patra

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June marks Global Volunteer Month for Morgan Stanley, the global financial services firm. Each day for an entire month, its employees volunteer in their communities. Since the start of the initiative, its employees have delivered over one million volunteer hours in their communities.

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Recently, 25 volunteers from different departments at Morgan Stanley, Bangalore were able to spend the day at the Akshaya Patra VK Hill kitchen and the Uttari School on the outskirts of Bangalore. The volunteers spent the morning peeling coconuts, sorting grains, and unloading food before having the opportunity to serve the mid-day meal to the children.

Morgan Stanley has been a supporter of The Akshaya Patra Foundation for many years, and we receive its volunteers multiples times a year. For some, it was their first visit to our facilities, but for others it was a chance to revisit an organization they support.

When asked why they chose to volunteer at Akshaya Patra, Shanks Srinivasan said, “We chose Akshaya Patra because of their transparency and forward-looking partnerships with corporations.” Hitesh added that, “one core value is [giving] back to the society.”

More volunteers are expected to visit the Akshaya Patra kitchens and schools later this month.

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A Glimpse of The Fascinating World of Akshaya Patra’s Mega Kitchens

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This photo blog is a visual inspiration for all those who are intrigued and fascinated by our colossal kitchens. This blog will give you an intimate look into an Akshaya Patra kitchen, with photographs of how exactly we accomplish feeding 1.5 million children daily!

At each of our 22 kitchens, staff starts their daily ritual of cooking at 3am every morning. By 9 am, we have tasty and wholesome meals ready to spread cheer to millions of children across India.

At 11pm, while the rest of India still slumbers, kitchen staff starts arriving at our facilities in batches, to kick-start the day’s cooking. Pre-processing activities include, kitting of raw materials from the production upon verification, grinding of coconuts, mixing of spices, chopping and slicing of vegetables and cleaning of raw materials.

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By 1 am, the boiler operations start. Briquettes are loaded into the boilers for generating steam.

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At 3 am, post the boiler operations and pre-processing activities, the core task of cooking starts.

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By 9 am piping hot food is packed in 304 grade steam sterilised vessels and our Blue buses are ready to whisk the gates of Akshaya Patra kitchens.

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Fuelling the Dreams of Children

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Enter a child’s mind, find their dream, and guide the mind to its destination – a trail created by Akshaya Patra’s initiative ‘Giving Every Dream a Chance.’ When a child begins to dream to achieve something in the future, it becomes an orbiting thought with zero restrictions. However, when they are made to take a step back due to their economic conditions, they lock their aspirations in the mind itself. What children need at this point is immense support from the society, a great boost to dream fearlessly and an assurance that dreams do come true.

With a belief that every dream deserves an opportunity, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has launched a project ‘Giving Every Dream a Chance’ to support the dreams of every child. This initiative will not only encourage the little minds to dream but will also act as a guiding star in getting a step closer to the dream. As a pilot project, three Akshaya Patra beneficiaries from Bengaluru went through a successful mentorship programme under the guidance of an expertise from their field of interest. Their stories highlight why it is important to give every child’s dream a fair chance.

Shivu, a 14-year-old Akshaya Patra beneficiary, is fascinated by stars—a topic that makes our mind absolutely curious. Well, this curiosity is a driving force for Shivu to achieve his dream of becoming an astronomer. Akshaya Patra’s initiative laid the runway for his dream by providing a mentorship programme under the guidance of Ms Preeti Krishnamurthy, Senior Research Fellow in Astrophysics. During his mentorship, Shivu got an opportunity to have a closer look at the sky and study the celestial objects.

Shekar built his dream of becoming a chef while helping his mother cook in the kitchen. To help him experience his dream, Akshaya Patra turned the 14-year-old boy’s dream into an opportunity by charting a month-long mentorship programme, where he developed his skills under the watchful eyes of Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju of the Vivanta By Taj.

Manjula, an aspiring actress, is a star in her own right. What the 14-year-old girl needed was an expertise to polish her acting skills into a powerful one. That happened when Akshaya Patra decided to elevate Manjula’s dream by enrolling her in a month-long acting mentorship programme at the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama under the guidance of its Founder-Director, Dr. Zulfia Shaikh.

After the successful launch of the initiative, The Foundation now plans to stretch the initiative to multiple cities across the country. It is our understanding that with right guidance, children will be able to realise their dream and also develop their skills. Join Akshaya Patra on the journey where hundreds of children from across the country will be benefitting from the initiative ‘Giving Every Dream a Chance.’ To help children dream fearlessly, the focus continues to be hunger relief among school goers through nutritious mid-day meals. By contributing Rs. 750, you can feed a child for an entire year! To help us achieve this, donate here.

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All For A Greener Earth This World Environment Day!

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June 5th every year marks World Environment Day. This day brings to spotlight, the importance of our environment and the need to preserve the environment for the generations to come. This is a time to collectively address the needs of our Mother Earth and seek ways on how to save the environment. Undertaking this task is of supreme importance because, we the 7.4 billion-inhabiting this planet have only one thing in common and i.e. our home.

Every individual’s actions have profound implications on the environment, however minor or major. Mankind’s practices like hyper-consumerism, environmental pollution, tremendous industrialisation, and throwaway culture has caused environmental degradation that is only augmenting with time. To address this issue, we at Akshaya Patra, have adopted eco-friendly methods to implement our Mid-Day Meal Programme.

Biogas Plants: Under the Go Green initiative, Akshaya Patra has adopted new organic waste to biogas systems in its Ballari and Vasanthapura kitchens. These plants convert organic waste into energy thereby reducing cost and dependency on LPG. Besides this, it also produces volumes of enriched organic manure that help supplement chemical fertilizers. The biogas plants also help in eco-friendly handling of food wastages of approximately 20 metric tonne every month.

Solar Plant: The solar plant installed in the Vasanthapura kitchen runs with the use of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to direct electricity. The electricity generated is not only sustainable but also environment friendly as solar plants produce no environmental pollution (zero emissions). The solar plant generates 1100 units of power thereby saving up to Rs. 8,000 per month on electricity.

Biomass Briquette:  These are perfect substitutes to coal and charcoal and are used extensively in our kitchens. Through this, we attempt to conserve our much depleting non-renewable sources of energy like coal.

Effluent Treatment Plants: These plants help in scientific handling, disposal and recycling of runoffs and kitchens wastes. This helps in reducing smell and spillage thereby preventing environmental pollution.

Besides the aforementioned initiatives, Akshaya Patra has also optimised its meal delivery routes to reduce carbon emissions. Porous Sulpha Sponge is another technology that has been identified to scientifically treat effluents and sewages.

In précis, we at Akshaya Patra have adopted these eco-friendly initiatives to help conserve our environment. We are determined that these undertakings will save the environment and additionally will help us take bigger strides in feeding more children!

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Contribute to send children back to school!

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It is the second quarter of the year and the hiring season is at its peak. Landing a high-paying job is on everyone’s agenda.  Taking up lucrative opportunities to better our status quo, rule our minds as we start to prepare for a new chapter in our lives. The feeling is simply rewarding, isn’t it?

Similarly, its back-to-school-time also! Quintessential summer days of having a blast and lazing around is finally over as children gear up for their new academic year. But often, poverty and paucity of resources prevent families from sending their children for another year at school. This is reality as reports establish the inextricable connection of poverty and increasing dropout rates. Adverse conditions of hunger and food insecurity thwart children’s excitement of returning for another year at school. School becomes a distant dream.

As you start a new innings of your life, help us in facilitating children start theirs too! Let’s send them back to school. Shall we?  Your donation for children will help us in providing wholesome meals that will motivate children and their parents to send them to school. Akshaya Patra offers you numerous ways of associating with its cause of food for education. You can start a fundraiser or simply opt for an online donation that is just a click away.

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