Food and Education

Food and Education

5 super foods for a child’s development


‘Food for education’ is a time tested concept to bring children from underprivileged backgrounds to schools. The core idea behind this isn’t just to educate them by offering food as an incentive; it is also to attack the serious issue of malnutrition. Did you know that one in every three undernourished children in the world lives in India? That’s quite a daunting number! Akshaya Patra’s #HungryForSchool campaign aims at solving nutritional problems for better child development (besides improving literacy levels). Our menu is planned with much thought, to create a well-balanced meal. We believe that by including these 5 essential foods for a child’s development, we can help him/her become a brighter, healthier, happier person.

Our list of 5 super foods for a child’s development

1. Fresh vegetables: Fresh, locally sourced, seasonal vegetables are always a part of our meal. We try interesting recipes to make the children love them, and also to make sure they get their daily dose of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

2. Dairy products: It is no secret that calcium is extremely essential for a growing child. That’s why we regularly include dishes like ‘payasam’, made from milk.

3. Cereals: This includes whole grain cereals, rice and wheat. Carbohydrates give the children the energy to play, study and have a great time, all day long.

4. Beans and legumes: A fabulous source of protein, we include all kinds of beans and legumes into our recipes – lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, etc. We cook these thoroughly to eliminate toxins and aid digestion.

5. Oils: While most of us adults shun oil for various reasons, it plays a vital role in the growth of a child. All types of oils, even food containing natural oil (like dairy) is good for them. The body stores fats for energy and to transport essential fat-soluble vitamins.

To create a menu that is interesting, lip smacking good and includes the 5 super foods essential for a child’s development, is no mean task. But we’ve got the right set of experts, nutritionist and chefs to make this happen. We’re doing our bit every day to help malnourished children. Help us sustain our endeavours. Even the smallest contributions can mean a lot to a child in his/her formative years. Click here to see how you can help us.

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Food and Education

Change for the Better— A continuous process


Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning ‘good change’. Kaizen for businesses has come to be known as continuous improvement attained by involving everyone in the work environment.

The essence of Kaizen is that continuous improvement is brought by individuals who performKai Zen particular tasks, as they are more knowledgeable of that task. Through this method, an organisation shows its confidence in the capabilities of individuals, and induces a sense of ownership over that process among them.

For years, Akshaya Patra has encouraged its employees to adopt Kaizen for continuous improvement in order to achieve excellence in its operations. This is crucial for the organisation as it finds itself highly responsible to ensure optimum utilisation of the resources so that it can realise its goal of feeding millions of children each day. Moreover it is our responsibility to do justice to the trust vested in us by the Central and State Governments along with contributions from all our donors, supporters and well-wishers from India and across the world.

Kaizen is adopted at various levels of operation, through initiatives by the kitchen management. Below are a few examples from last year. These successfully implemented Kaizen Projects were simple yet cost effective, time saving, yielding much better, one way or another.

A Peek into the Kaizen Initiatives at Akshaya Patra during 2013-2014

Price Optimisation in Vegetable Procurement

The Hubli kitchen primarily followed a fixed price contract with an external vendor. One of the limitations of this system was the lack of variety in vegetables and leafy vegetables. As a Kaizen initiative, the purchase team started procuring directly from the State Government-run Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). As a result, Akshaya Patra can now save on costs since the price of vegetables at the local market is much lesser than that quoted by the vendor. This has resulted in saving costs as well as also helped in improving the taste of sambar/curry with varieties of vegetables and greens in it.

Planning route went a long way

Guwahati operations had recorded vehicle distance coverage of 145 km per day that led to 16 litres of petrol consumption each day on distribution of meals to 13 schools. Route analysis, a Kaizen initiative helped reduce the diesel consumption of the vehicle plying one of the routes by 6 litres per day and the distance has been reduced by 50 km. The Kaizen analysis showed that by rotation of the stock of vessels for 13 schools, the distance could be reduced. This has also been a cost saving initiative.

Chick Pea, Pigeon Pea and Split Pea

A combination of pigeon pea (toor dal) and split pea (matar dal) was being used in the preparation of dal. A rise in the market price of pigeon pea resulted in an increase in the cost per meal. After the implementation of Kaizen, the ingredient composition for dal comprised of measured quantities of chick pea, pigeon pea and split pea. This resulted in better taste and nutrition and a favorable feedback from children.

kaizen-in-akshaya-patra-kitchensStarch-less cooking

It was found that starch-less cooking implementation could lead to reduced cost involving disposal of starch, enhanced nutritional value of the rice, simultaneously saving significant volumes of water. Skilled labour combined with continuous trial and error efforts made this idea a reality. During the trial and error method it was discovered that maintaining appropriate water levels in cauldrons, maintaining high pressure steam and keeping the lid closed for an appropriate time, are the vital keys in the process. The good feedback from the schools has favoured the implementation. The rice now has enhanced nutritional levels, better taste, reduction in cooking time and cost saving as well.

Vessel Management in the Wash unitkaizen-vessels-conveyer

Earlier, it took 4 hours to wash 1800 vessels. The vessels would be unloaded near a washing point and employees would have to manually shift the vessels to the designated washing bay resulting in hectic movement and wastage of time. Now, as a Kaizen initiative, coupons are being issued to the vehicles carrying vessels. Based on the coupon number, the corresponding vehicles unload vessels near the washing point. This has not only helped to reduce the effort needed to shift the vessels but has also reduced the vessel washing cycle time from 4 hours to 3 hours. The cascading effect has also been on reduced electricity usage and reduced water.

Quality Food is everything at our kitchen

As a part of the ISO 22000:2005 surveillance audit and with a commitment to ensure periodic verification, samples are drawn and analysed in a National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories NABL accredited laboratory. Samples of cooked food, swabs of equipment, personal hygiene of employees, chlorinated vegetables and raw materials are sent to the laboratories for checking compliance level and effectiveness of the food safety practices being followed. After the implementation of Kaizen, the Bangalore kitchen at H K Hill additionally gets food samples from the school analysed at periodic intervals for microbiological parameters. Sample of food from select schools which receive the food cooked in the first batch are sent for testing. The reports help to give a better understanding of the shelf-life of cooked products after several hours of production and transport.

With each of these and more such initiatives by the employees, Akshaya Patra aims at holistic development of its operations. Individual and team efforts along with continuous improvement initiatives at every level will aid toward optimum utilisation of resources, leading to increased capacity of the organisation in reaching more and more children.

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Food and Education

Akshaya Patra’s Kitchen Goes Green


Everyday 300 kg of waste from the Akshaya Patra kitchen in Vasanthapura is helping to limit its usage of liquefied petroleum gas or what is commonly known as LPG. With an intention to opt for renewable sources of energy, Akshaya Patra has decided to install a Bio Oorja.Once fully operational, the bio gas plant is expected to produce about 40-50kgs of bio gas and will consume about 1000 kilograms of waste. Akshaya Patra has opted for a ‘Bio Oorja’ – a waste management technology that uses modified bio gas plant to produce bio gas to be used in Oorja stoves.

It is a step towards introducing and harnessing renewable energy in the kitchens and making the mid-day meal programme an eco-friendly one too.

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Food and Education

Serving it Safe


The Akshaya Patra Organisation is providing mid-day meals to over 1.3 million children every day. But how do you know that you can trust the quality of the food being served? The Akshaya Patra Foundation bares all to lay your doubts to rest. Here’s an in-depth accounting of every step, process and precaution put in place to ensure that nothing but healthy, wholesome and hygienic food passes our doors.

Akshaya Patra follows a carefully prescribed food safety plan whilst handling, preparing and storing food, to make sure that no child gets sick because of foodborne illnesses. As a recipient of the Det Norske Veritas Food Safety System Certificate, The Akshaya Patra Foundation is ISO 22000:2005 compliant across eleven kitchens. Akshaya Patra has aimed to uphold the ISO 22000 standard for several reasons: to have a food safety management system in place that ensures that all food being cooked is safe; to demonstrate compliance with food safety regulations; to evaluate customer requirements and satisfaction; to effectively communicate food safety issues to suppliers, customers and other relevant parties and to attain certification of the food safety management system from an external organisation.

The key to healthy food is to have a clean and hygienic cooking environment. The Akshaya Patra kitchens are 5S (sort, simplify, scrub, standardise and sustain) and GMP (good manufacturing processes) compliant, checked with regular audits. The kitchen infrastructure includes all stainless steel 304 grade cooking equipment. The staff follows extremely high standards of personal hygiene from wearing hair caps, face masks, clean uniforms, gloves, gumboots to following stringent hand disinfection.

The vegetables are carefully sifted through to remove any spoiled or damaged ones, cleaned with potable water and sanitised in chlorine water before cutting to reduce the risk of any microbial contamination. Beyond this, the raw material for cooking is accepted only after a thorough quality inspection and the rice is cleaned mechanically and then washed completely.

Safety is of utmost concern even during the cooking process. Cauldrons, trolleys, rice chutes, sambar or dal tanks, cutting boards and knives etc., are sanitised with steam just before use. The kitchens follow a policy of a hundred percent adherence to the recipe and the cooking is executed under the watchful eyes of trained cooks and production supervisors. To reduce any margin for error, other measures like periodic checks on cooking temperatures and batch wise quality checks on the food by quality officers are also undertaken. Once the food is cooked it is packed into steam sterilized vessels. All the food contact surfaces are of either 304 grade stainless steel or food grade plastic.

High quality standards are followed while delivering food to the schools as well. The body of the vehicles is insulated with thermocol to retain the heat inside. The vehicles are water washed with a pressure jet on the previous day, while the cleanliness of the vehicle is again checked before loading the food inside. Stainless steel racks meant for vessels of small, medium and big sizes are laid inside to secure the vessels and prevent spillage. The temperature of the food is checked once more during delivery as well.

Completing the cycle of quality food delivery, all the schools are equipped with a do’s and don’ts list. A daily feedback mechanism is established and responded to in 24 hours, customer complaints are managed within 24 hours and customer satisfaction surveys are conducted to improve the products and services.

At The Akshaya Patra Foundation, we don’t merely want to provide a meal; we want to provide health, hope and above all, happiness to the millions of children in need of it. And we are committed to doing it in a safe and sustainable manner, which will survive the challenges of the future.

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Food and Education

Why is the Akshaya Patra Meal ‘Food for Education’?


Why is the thought that ‘we serve food for education’ upheld with great pride by Akshaya Patra, and even the government backing the idea by implementing mid-day meals scheme in schools?

Yes it is as simple, because you can reach out to more children in a more organised way. Government schools in particular become the obvious target, as more children from a disadvantaged economic background attend government schools. Yet, there are reasons beyond this.

Even though one can reach out to more children at schools, the strategic aim is to reach much more by incentivising food, for attending school throughout the year. In many ways an incentive that is food, brings and retains children in school which ensures them education at the same time. Let’s throw some light on how food acts as an incentive:

  • Firstly, many children do not attend school because of poverty. Children are engaged as child labourers where many a time they are working for earning just one square meal of the day. Feeding in school not only gives them access to food but also ensures that they receive education, making two hits with one stone
  • Once children realise that they will get one full meal that is tasty and fresh, they tend to attend school regularly, which results in a reduced dropout rate and better attendance
  • Many regions have shown increased enrolment of girl children, as parents who don’t find it important to educate a girl child would still send their daughter to school since she has access to nutritious food, which is considered more essential by the parents. This way the girl child also gets an opportunity to attend school and to access education.

why-a-midday-meal-is-for-education_01 In a country like India where poverty is immense and the extent of hunger and malnutrition is afflicting, an initiative such as ‘food for education’ addresses a larger issue. By effective implementation of the Mid-Day Meal, children not only have access to food and education but also get an opportunity to lead a better life. Children are the future of the nation. Through the initiative of food for education, they could survive with better health while improving their employability quotient as they acquire better skills. This ensures them better income and standard of living as opposed to no education and poor health due to lack of nutrition.

If generations of children are given such an opportunity year after year, at some point in the future this effort could lead to the alleviation of poverty. Mid-Day Meal scheme is a multi-faceted approach to provide opportunities to the children of today for a better tomorrow. One meal at a time, Akshaya Patra hopes to change the lives of underserved children; aiding in realisation of their basic rights such as Right To Food and Right To Education. For many such reasons, Akshaya Patra mid-day meal has come to be known as Food for Education, and the organisation is driven by the impact the food for education has had over years.


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Food and Education

In search of Excellence


in-search-of-excellence-blogWe live in a world where time, money and resources are scarce. A world where we have to set ourselves on the path of continual improvement and strive to be the best we can possible be. The Akshaya Patra Foundation embraces this concept wholeheartedly through the implementation of its Akshaya Pragathi Program.

In a structure such as The Akshaya Patra Organisation where every hard earned rupee from our generous donors has to be put to the maximum possible use, reaching out to over 1.3 million children, we understand that it is imperative to have a streamlined process for constant development and improvement in place.

Within the program, Akshaya Patra has adopted three parallel methods to strive for a system of best practices and complete efficiency.

akshaya-patra-blog-in-search-of-excellenceUnder the Kaizen (Kai=continual, Zen=improvement) system, the focus is on making creative investments to solve as many small problems as possible, thereby contributing to the greater whole. By reducing waste across areas like inventory, waiting time, transportation, over production etc., and improving on space utilization, product quality, use of capital, employee retention and production capacity etc., the Kaizen method provides immediate results that streamline processes and boost employee morale.

A simple to implement yet highly effective check on processes is the PDCA Cycle. By following a simple series of steps from Plan, Do, Check and Act, issues that can be easily overlooked are addressed in a quick and efficient manner.

To complement the immediate nature of the Kaizen approach is our long term Six Sigma approach. This is a statistical measurement of the performance of a process, intended to assist us in our goal of achieving lasting business leadership and world class performance. The Six Sigma system follows a simple five step DMAIC process of Define what’s important, Measure how you are doing, Analyse what is wrong, Improve by fixing what is wrong and Control to guarantee performance.

Using these three systems The Akshaya Patra Foundation aspires to improve across every strata of its functioning to achieve not just its goal of feeding 5 million children by 2020, but to build a foundation that will stand the tests of time.

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Food and Education

Now, a kitchen from Bangalore for Mumbai’s poor kids


Source: Moresha Benjamin / DNA

While education for the city’s underprivileged children is of utmost importance, it is equally exigent that they get regular, nutritious meals.

Recognising this, The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF), a Bangalore-based NGO that operates the world’s largest privately run midday meal programme, is planning to set up a centralised kitchen in the city. It will cater to the city’s state-run schools, as well as to NGOs conducting child education programmes.

“What is the use of education when a child goes hungry and cannot concentrate in class?” saidMadhu Pandit Dasa, chairman of the NGO, which feeds more than a million children at 17 locations in seven states.

“I have come across families who have sold their children’s books so that they can buy a day’s meal,” he added.

The NGO is backed by leading IT firms such as Cisco and Mindtree, high-profile individuals and also common citizens. Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys chairman Narayan Murthy, is one of the donors. Murthy said, “When I visited their Bangalore centre, I was pleased to see that the kitchen has really good hygienic standards. The cooks wear gloves, and cover their heads. The food is not only tasty but also nutritious.” She playfully added, “There have been times when I have visited them unannounced just so that I can enjoy a delicious meal.”

The NGO’s entry into the city has its share of hurdles. The foundation had been invited twice by the then-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh to set up a centre in Mumbai, but since it was then quite small, the project was not feasible. And now that it is ready, the present rules stipulate that such a programme can be initiated only by women welfare groups, and not by general NGOs. CP Das, TAPF’s vice president, said, “Why stop a good cause on grounds of gender? Are there no exceptions when the only purpose is betterment of humanity?”

The NGO also at the short end of Mumbai’s exorbitant property rates, as it needs a large centrally-located kitchen to reach out to all parts of the city.

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Discussion RoomFood and Education

Interview with Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa

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Excerpts from an interview with Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa:, Chairman of World’s largest NGO run School Meal Program, Akshaya Patra.

Question: Why the name Askhaya Patra to the mid-day meal program?

Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa: The divine vessel ‘Akshaya Patra’ of Mahabharata symbolizes unlimited portions that can feed countless mouths. But this ‘vessel’ sought a few willing human hearts, minds and hands to feed ONE MILLION everyday.

Question: To whom all do you attribute this success of feeding one million everyday?

Question: Why the name Askhaya Patra to the mid-day meal program? Cooks, cleaners, drivers, guards, supervisors, managers, donors, government authorities, advisors, board members and missionaries were all inspired and activated to make this possible.

Question: What really motivated you to initiate and make this movement so successful?
Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa: When we began we had not the slightest idea of this scale. But someone was watching within all of us and noted our wanting to do more and more and willing to battle everyday to beat the hurdles. He kept opening new paths , kept fanning our spirits , pushed us bit by bit up the scale of feeding more and more children month after month and year after year .

As His grace fell on a million children, we were graced with great lessons too. That, big things can be done when what is to be done is greater than all of us and that God helps those who help themselves, especially to help others beyond themselves. He gave that extra direction, that extra support, that extra determination and fanned the spark of desire to feed a blazing ONE MILLION! He took us that extra distance we never conceived of when we started. And He rewarded our humble efforts by fulfilling our ever growing dream. Blessed are we who could experience this.

Question: How do you think this movement will bear an effect on the society?

Question: Why the name Askhaya Patra to the mid-day meal program? One thing is certain from this experience. Boundless compassion is waiting to explode into this world to lessen the suffering provided we involve more and more willing human hearts, minds and hands to deliver His blessings upon many more millions in the years to come. We are determined to seek out for more and more such willing people out in the world who do not know that many more millions mouths are waiting for the blessing to transform their lives. Their smiles will transform our lives too.

A pride that humbles us, yet spirits us to reach our next target of five million.

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Food and Education

The Gravity of Education


What is the meaning of education? Why is it necessary that every child below 14 years of age go to school and get educated? How would this impact the child’s life? If a child goes to school then who will help out with work? This is probably the thought process of a parent from a marginalised background when you tell her/him that their children rather go to school than work in the fields.

Though this is 2014, many regions and communities in India are of the opinion that education is not as important as making two ends meet. This is mainly because their exposure to the importance of education is not sufficient. Organisations like The Akshaya Patra Foundation play the role of a catalyst and carry this message to such remote regions in the form of mid-day meals to be distributed to school children. Through these initiatives, and provisions like the Right To Education (RTE) Act, the Government of India has made constant efforts to tackle issues of malnutrition and illiteracy.

In order to support and incentivise education, the Supreme Court of India, in the year 2001, directed all State Governments to introduce cooked mid-day meals in primary schools. Philanthropists and non-profits like The Akshaya Patra Foundation have ever since adopted the Government mid-day meal scheme and implemented it in thousands of schools across India. But despite these efforts, reaching out to a large portion of the population from vulnerable backgrounds remains a challenge. Various factors like social and economic barriers obstruct the transmission of such awareness to these strata of the society. It is very difficult to break these age-old barriers built over centuries, and transcend the message across.

In the year 2002, The Constitution of India included Article 21-A that mandated free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years as a Fundamental Right. Furthermore, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, under Article 21-A, states that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.

gravity-of-education_akshaya-patraHowever, there is enough proof that the efforts of the Government combined with those of philanthropic groups, backed by major social reformation initiatives can change the face of literacy and nutrition in rural areas.

During one of the visits to an Akshaya Patra beneficiary school in Adugodi, Bangalore, we witnessed an incident. A young girl in civilian clothes walked into the school principal’s office with a box of sweets. On enquiring further, we were told that the girl is a former student of the same school. She was here to share the news about her getting a job and to thank her teachers for imparting education to her. The girl was about 18 years old. She had accomplished her Pre-University education and was recruited by a bank for a clerical position.

Narrating a similar incident, Raffath Unnisa, a senior teacher in another Bangalore-based government school said, “There was this boy I taught in school years ago. He was highly interested in studies and was good at it also. But one day he didn’t show up at school and missed many consecutive days after that. On investigating the matter, we found that the child’s grandmother wouldn’t let him study. Since he was the only male child in the family, she preferred that he work in the fields with his parents than attend school.”

The dedicated teacher then approached his parents and explained to them how important it was for their son to study. It took her a few more visits to convince them to send him back to school. “Today he is all grown up and works for the Income Tax department,” exclaimed Unnisa with pride. These incidents validated the fact that the efforts of non-profits like Akshaya Patra yield noteworthy results only because of complete support from the Government.


Government schools across India have various resources and facilities for children like qualified teachers, hygiene and sanitation, safe drinking water, mid-day meals, spacious play areas, libraries, computer and science laboratories, school uniforms and so on. One of the ways to reach out to the remaining children (especially girls) in our country who are not attending school yet, is by improving facilities like sanitation and hygiene. Another important method to address the school enrolment and attendance issue is creating awareness in economically underserved communities about the gravity of education.  The more people understand the seriousness behind education, the better will it serve the future of India.

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Food and Education

World Food Day 2013


World Food Day is observed every year on October 16 by many organisations concerned with food security and nutrition. The theme – “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition” gives focus to World Food Day observances and helps increase understanding of problems and solutions in the drive to end hunger.

Akshaya Patra Foundation running the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme participates in this World Food Day 2013 with the initiative to create awareness about the need of the hour of food and education to millions of less fortunate children in India. It’s because more than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in India.

The foundation is not just about feeding 1.3 million children with mid-day meal every day; it’s about providing them nutritious meals for their growing mind and body. Sharing the theme on World Food Day, the organisation believes in the sustaining its operation in order to feed 5 million children by 2020. A mission that can only be achieved if we garner the contributions of all well-wishers, supporters, volunteers, donors.

Let’s observe World Food Day 2013 together and join our cause of providing food for education every day. Let’s build a promising nation of well nourished, healthy and smart children.

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