Food and Education

Food and Education

Inside the Hubli Akshaya Patra Kitchen


He heard two people speaking of Akshaya Patra at a bus stop one day, says Gopal Londe and grew curious about the Foundation. “They were talking about how there was good work here and the compensation was excellent. When I came to Hubli, I decided to find out more. I didn’t know this then, but it turned out one of my cousins was working here too. And that’s how I came to do my job,” he says. In the four years since he first started, says Gopal, he has worked on all three floors of Hubli’s massive infrastructure, often hailed as one of the largest kitchens in the world. Currently, he and his co-workers are responsible for rice cleaning on the 2nd floor.

Akshaya Patra’s third generation of kitchens, like the Hubli facility, harness the potential energy in gravity for the benefit of the cooking process in what has been termed ‘gravity flow mechanism’. Dal and rice stored in silos on the 3rd floor flows down through chutes to the 2nd floor to be cleaned before cooking. By the time their day is over, Gopal and his co-workers will have cleaned approximately 15 to 16 tonnes of rice, 3 to 3.5 tonnes of dal and 9 to 10 tonnes of vegetables. Masala preparation and vegetable cutting also takes place on this floor. From here, they must be sent to the 1st floor where the actual cooking takes place in steam heated cauldrons. Here too, the potential energy in gravity is harnessed.

When Gopal lifts a steel lid approximately 20 inches in diameter, he reveals how tonnes of rice, dal and vegetables find their way to the cauldrons below. The floor of the 2nd storey is lined with two neat rows of such lids. Each one covers a chute that leads directly to the cauldrons. One row is reserved specifically for the rice cauldrons the other set for the dal, vegetables and masala used to make sambar. An open passage connects the two floors, allowing staff to communicate and coordinate their efforts. As the cooking in each cauldron is completed, a signal from the 1st floor, given either verbally or through a walkie-talkie, alerts Gopal and his team upstairs to pour rice, dal or any other required ingredients down the chutes to corresponding cauldrons.

On the 1st floor, as each cauldron of rice has finished cooking, a team will be ready with trolleys into which the steaming rice is emptied. Then they take the rice to the large open chute that connects the 2nd floor to the ground floor. Each sambar cauldron has a connecting pipe flowing into a main duct that also leads to the ground floor.

A team of members, ready with the requirements for each school, carefully pack food into steel containers to meet the corresponding route supervisor’s request. Conveyor belts running the length of the packing area lead to the waiting food vans outside.

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Food and Education

School Inspection in Dharwad


Travelling on a bike in 380 to 400 celcius degree heat on rough, unpredictable roads to remote villages is sometimes a part of Kiran Karigoudra’s job. Working as he does inspecting schools in Dharwad city and surrounding rural areas, there is nothing he has not come across in his five years as an inspection supervisor.

“If a van is delayed due to unavoidable reasons, I have to phone up all the principals in the pending schools to let them know about the situation. Sometimes there might be trouble in a village and the van will get held up, we have to manage that situation as soon as possible,” he says. Many rural villages in the region are located in remote forest areas where the poor condition of roads poses a problem to vehicles and special care needs to be taken during rainy days. Roads will often be blocked by rock or debris, and on occasions, Kiran has to place requests with the concerned authorities for the improvement of roads.

Having grown up in Dharwad himself, Kiran knows and understands very well the area in which he works. “In this school here,” he says of a remote village ensconced in the forests that surround Dharwad near Kalkeri, “children only come to school if there is food. People do depend on Akshaya Patra. The teachers are very dedicated too. Two of them walk 7km one way just to come here and teach.” According to Kiran, at least half the children in most villages of the region attend classes because of school lunch. “A cooked meal has made so much difference for education” he says. “Earlier, when the Government used to give dry rations, children would only attend school for one or two days when they distributed rations, take the rice and dal and then leave. They wouldn’t come back until the same time next month. Nowadays they come everyday.”

When inspecting, Kiran has to make sure that food arrives at schools on time, is satisfactory to the children and is in sufficient quantities, a job which he thoroughly enjoys. “I feel a great deal of happiness working for Akshaya Patra, because my work is for children. Here, I get responsibility and I get freedom to do my work,” he says.

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Food and Education

Kitchen Activities of Bellary


“When we went to buy a vehicle to make commuting for our staff easier and the owner of the vehicle realised we were from Akshaya Patra,” says Mr. Subramanyam, “he refused to take any money from us.” Such good will and kindness, he adds, stems from the fact that we serve nearly 1.3* lakh (130,000) children in Bellary district everyday without fail. Not only that, but we have also helped provide relief for thousands of flood victims in the area.

How is the logistics of distributing and preparing exactly the right amount of food for so many children managed? Mr. Subramanyam, who handles those logistics, among many others, expands on the process:

“All of the nearly 575 schools are mapped into approximately 21 routes. Each route has a specific name and number of schools. We have one food van for each route, and the van is accompanied by a route supervisor,” he says. These route supervisors gather information on the ground from each school, including what the projected attendance rate might be for the following day. From this raw data, charts are prepared in the evening to determine the amount of food that needs to be packed into each van for the following day. The distribution supervisor then collates the data from all routes and gives the information to the head of production who will then know exactly how much food to prepare for the following day.

A meeting is held for procuring vegetables every week, says Mr. Subramanyam and fresh produce is brought in once every two days from surrounding districts such as Belgaum. “There aren’t enough vegetables in Bellary alone to meet our requirements,” adds Mr. Subramanyam. The Bellary kitchen requires around 4.5 tonnes of vegetables each day.

Mr. Subramanyam, who previously worked in the Foundation’s Hubli kitchen before coming to Bellary, has been a part of Akshaya Patra’s family for nearly four years. So thorough is he in his approach, that he has analysed everything from the trends of school attendance rates to the patterns of food consumption for each month. But he attributes the success and smooth running of the program to the people that make up Akshaya Patra.

“It all happens through good work and co-ordination of everyone involved,” he says.

*As on April 2011

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