close

Food and Education

Food and Education

‘Akshaya Patra believes in looking after its employees’

labour-day-blog-banner

International Labour Day (May Day) celebrated on May 1st each year, marks a day of celebration of labourers, and the working class around the world. This day is used to promote labour unions, and to recommit to the cause of promoting dignified, safe and humane conditions to work in.

Akshaya Patra also believes in looking after its employees, and makes sure that the staff has a fulfilling, secure work with the Foundation. Employing nearly 4,000 men and over 2,200 women (according to January 2015 records) in different facets across the organisation, Akshaya Patra ensures that each employee enjoys equal opportunity for growth and development.

Even to the lowest paid staff members Akshaya Patra adheres to the prevalent minimum wage directives of that State Government, and where not applicable defers to the directives of the Central Government. Aside from this Akshaya Patra also abides by other statutory laws like the Employee State Insurance Act (1948), Employee Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act (1952), and the Payment of Gratuity Act (1972).

Akshaya Patra also promotes employment free of gender bias. Almost all the 24 kitchen units across the country employ women who assist in the cooking process. The decentralised kitchen units in Baran and Nayagarh together employ over 1,400 women from local self-help groups providing them with sustainable income and greater social standing, making them role models for future generations of women in the area.

The cooking process begins as early as 2am in the Akshaya Patra kitchens, so that the food is packed and ready for delivery by morning. In order to make this process safe and comfortable for the staff that has to arrive early, Akshaya Patra provides staff accommodation close to the premises at all their major kitchen units.

Akshaya Patra has also adopted a governance philosophy that helps it behave efficiently, ethically and create value for its employees. The Foundation achieves this through four basic tenets: board accountability to the Foundation and stakeholders (including employees), equitable treatment to all stakeholders (including employees), strategic guidance and effective monitoring by the Board, and transparency and timely disclosure.

It is this focus on constantly creating a healthy, inspiring and fulfilling work environment that has enabled Akshaya Patra to cross so many milestones in the past 15 years. With the continued mutual trust and dedication from both the organisation and employees, the Foundation looks forward to an even brighter future.

read more
Food and Education

Summer fun with arts and crafts

summer-camp-banner

Schools are closed for the summer holidays but the halls of the Government Higher Primary School in Shivanagar, Bangalore are alive with the excited voices of little children. Over here summer camp is underway where the children from grade 1 to 7 are learning fun arts and crafts, drawing, sewing, taking computer classes and English coaching.

summer-camp2The energy is high as the children proudly present their stitching samples, albums filled with decorative artwork and hold out their hands to show off their newly learnt mehendi. Small framed, and bright eyed, these young children evidently love attending school in their summer holidays to spend the day with their friends learning a new skill, and enjoying the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal before heading home.

Practicing their sewing skills

The classes are organised by Dr. C.V Geetha, a vocational training counsellor with a BA Degree in child psychology under the supervision of Ms. Vyjayanthi, the primary school principal. “These children are very bright, all they need is motivation. I believe the community should come together to support them. The children need an avenue to show their creativity,” says Geetha.

Geetha, who believes in teaching basic skills, tells us that the school also conducts regular eye and dental check-ups. A first aid workshop was also organised by Red Cross.

“The parents are very happy that their children are learning these crafts. Even the boys enjoy learning the skills like sewing,” Geetha adds.

read more
Food and Education

Celebrating 10 years at the Baran kitchen!

baran-blog-banner

Akshaya Patra’s Baran kitchen completes one decade on 25th April, and looking back we see a 10 year legacy of fulfilment, joy and transformed lives.

The Baran kitchen was conceptualised in 2005, when a survey was taken in the district that revealed a large presence of poor and malnourished children. Born to low-income nomadic tribal families employed as labourers, these children were constantly moving from place to place, forgoing their education too.

Though it was apparent it was crucial to set up a kitchen here, the poor road connectivity and infrastructure made it impossible to set up one of Akshaya Patra’s large centralised kitchen units in this region. So the Baran unit became Akshaya Patra’s first ‘decentralised’ kitchen. With support from the local Sarpanch (head of the village) of the area, Akshaya Patra hired and trained women from self-help groups to cook the nutritious food in kitchens across the district, and feed the children.

The Baran kitchen has had some huge advantages to the women and children engaged in the programme. Very often the students benefitting from the food are children of the women employed in the kitchens. This has allowed the cooks the ability to provide safe, nutritious food to their children every day, given them permanent employment so they no longer live as migrant labourers and enabled their children to attend school regularly.

Today Akshaya Patra employes 215 women in the decentralised kitchen, feeds 9,855 children across 101 schools in the region, and also provides nutrition to 1,695 infants across 48 Anganwadi centres.

Though it was a challenge in the beginning to set up the decentralised kitchen, being strangers in an unknown locality, it was a challenge Akshaya Patra gladly accepted. During these past ten years the Foundation has built a fulfilling relationship of trust with the beneficiaries as well as the employees in the region, which has helped spread Akshaya Patra’s programme to all the villages in the district.

read more
Food and Education

Spread joy on Akshaya Tritiya

akshaya-Tritiya

Today is an auspicious day to start new ventures, and make new beginnings. It’s Akshaya Tritiya, the Holy Day which is believed to be the birthday of Lord Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Interestingly, according to the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira and his wife Draupadi received the Akshaya Patra – the patra (plate) that would produce unlimited food – from Surya (the Sun God) on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya.

The Sanskrit word ‘Akshaya’ means ‘never diminishing’. People believe that this day brings good luck and prosperity, and projects started on this day will yield success that multiplies.

On this special day people also donate to charity because it is believed that an act of kindness or a good deed will bring peace and happiness to the family. Contributions are made, big and small, to helping ease suffering and bring joy to another’s life. This Akshaya Tritiya, if you would like to make an auspicious contribution toward improving the life of a little child, click here.

read more
Food and Education

Going above and beyond for food safety

world-health-day

7th of April is World Health Day, established to commemorate the founding of the WHO (World Health Organisation) in 1948. The theme for World Health Day 2015 is ‘Food Safety: from farm to plate, make food safe’ (#safefood), a topic very close to our heart here at Akshaya Patra.

According to the WHO an estimated two million people die each year by consuming contaminated food or water. At Akshaya Patra we don’t believe it is sufficient to just provide food to underserved children. It is crucial to make sure the food has been properly cooked in a hygienic way, the ingredients are carefully cleaned before use and the meals meet the nutritional requirements of growing children.

Akshaya Patra has gone to great lengths to ensure food safety in its operations process.

In the pre-production process Supplier Quality Management Systems (SQMS) are implemented to make sure that only the best quality of raw materials is procured for cooking. The SQMS process includes scrutiny in supplier selection, qualification and rating. Even after this, produce is only accepted after a complete quality inspection to make sure that it meets with Akshaya Patra’s Raw Material Specifications, adopted from the Food Safety Standards Act 2006 (FSSA).

After approving the raw produce, the vegetables are sorted to keep them as fresh as possible. They are washed with potable water before being cut for cooking. The cut vegetables are placed in cold storage for a few hours to retain their freshness while other preparations are made for the day’s cooking. In the kitchens the FIFO (First In First Out) or FEFO (First Expiry First Out) process is used to make sure all the vegetables are used efficiently.

All of Akshaya Patra’s cooking equipment meets with the appropriate standards of food safety too. All the equipment from cauldrons, trolleys, rice chutes, dal/sambar tanks, cutting boards, knives etc. are put through a process of steam sterilisation before being used for cooking. The vessels used in the kitchens are made from 304 grade stainless steel, the best for cooking and storing food.

The staff is also carefully trained in the importance of maintaining excellent personal hygiene. All the members therefore follow a regiment of taking daily showers before arriving at the kitchen; using clean uniforms, caps, masks, gloves, gumboots and other protective gear; and regular hand sanitisation to maintain food safety standards in the kitchen. In addition, attractive and easy to understand hygiene charts are placed in easy view around the kitchens for further information. The kitchens have Production Supervisors who oversee the process and make sure that Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) are in place, and being executed.

Once the food is cooked and packed into the vessels, they are loaded onto Akshaya Patra’s customised meal delivery vans, or the Blue Buses as they are affectionately called. The vehicles are designed with a puffed body to reduce temperature loss, are fitted with a honeycomb structure that keeps the vessels upright and also retains the freshness of the food till it reaches the beneficiary schools. To make sure the food reaches schools in the least amount of time the Foundation utilises logistic charting for route optimisation, and a vehicle tracking system to ensure safe delivery.

Akshaya Patra’s dedication to providing safe, tasty food doesn’t end with delivering the mid-day meal. Frequent feedback is taken from the schools, and measures are put in place to improve the quality of the food. The Foundation also organises regular training sessions to educate the staff on different types of hazards, food poisoning and GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes). Training in HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), control measures like temperature checks, and emphasis on the importance of communication in food safety is also stressed. Monthly Audits, Quality Metrics Performance Reviews, Detailed Customer Satisfaction Surveys and other such measures are also regularly implemented.

Even with all these measures in place Akshaya Patra believes that there is always room for improvement. Therefore strategies like Kaizen, CI Projects and Six Sigma are constantly being implemented in every one of our kitchens across the country to ensure food safety and efficiency at all times.

Food contamination is something that can occur at any point in the cooking process, but it is something that can easily be avoided with the right knowledge. Akshaya Patra has often been held up as an example for excellence in food safety, even winning the CII National Food Safety Award in 2013 and 2014. We are thrilled to see this vital cause being taken up on a global platform like WHO, so that someday food safety will be within the reach of all.

Raw material is bought only from qualified suppliers
Raw material is bought only from qualified suppliers
The raw material is carefully cleaned before cooking
The raw material is carefully cleaned before cooking
The vegetables are cut and placed in cold storage
The vegetables are cut and placed in cold storage

 

The vessels are made from 304 grade stainless steel
The vessels are made from 304 grade stainless steel
Temperature checks are implemented
Temperature checks are implemented
Personal hygiene is maintained at all times
Personal hygiene is maintained at all times
The vessels are thoroughly cleaned after use
The vessels are thoroughly cleaned after use
The Blue Buses keep the food fresh till delivery
The Blue Buses keep the food fresh till delivery
Vehicles are equipped with a honeycomb structure
Vehicles are equipped with a honeycomb structure
read more
Food and Education

What’s planned this summer vacation?

happy-holidays2

Through the year all our kitchens work tirelessly to make sure that the students receive nutritious meals, in sufficient quantity every day. But during the school summer vacation we turn our attention to getting geared up for the start of the next academic year, and focusing on other projects too. Here’s a taste of what goes on in our kitchens while our students enjoy their summer holidays.

Prashanth Kumar M B, in charge of our Vrindavan kitchen tells us that their kitchen will be occupied with regular maintenance and repair work, overhauling all critical machinery and undertaking new projects to increase cooking capacity. Aside from this the kitchen will continue to feed about 22,000 Anganwadi children under the ICDS programme in and around Agra city.

Sunil Kumar Mehta in charge of our latest kitchen in Lucknow says this kitchen will be gearing up for the coming academic year with maintenance work on the flooring and water proofing of the kitchen.

According to Chetan D, in charge of our Bangalore and Bellary kitchens, the two Bangalore kitchens will be operational during the summer vacations providing food to the drought prone areas of Bangalore, as per the request of the Government of Karnataka.

Tasks like these and many more are being meticulously planned and executed in all our 24 locations across India during these two months. While the children enjoy their reprieve from daily lessons, our kitchen staff quietly and happily continues to improve and provide the healthy mid-day meal programme for those in need.

read more
Food and Education

Delivering good food, every day

vehicles

In our endeavour to provide healthy food to over 1.4 million children across India every day, we have to make sure that the food gets delivered on time and in good condition. To meet these requirements we use optimisation techniques like completing the cooking process on time, beginning deliveries sometimes as early as 5am, and using big data analytics to make the delivery process as smooth as possible. To be cost efficient but at the same time have the highest standards in quality is a challenging task, but one that Akshaya Patra has mastered.

Part of this delivery optimisation technique is making sure that the meal distribution vans are equipped to keep the food healthy and safe till they reach the beneficiary schools. To ensure this all our vans are custom made using a honeycomb structure that prevents any food from spilling. The vans are also insulated to prevent dust from entering and heat from escaping. These precautions keep the food hot and fresh for long periods of time.

Our meal delivery staff are also crucial to the process of making sure the food gets to children safely and on time. All of our drivers understand the importance of the work the Foundation is doing, and their vital role in ensuring its success.

And why do we make this effort every day? Because each morning, when our blue buses leave the kitchen premises, we have the knowledge that all of our effort and drive helps give an underserved child the opportunity to enjoy unlimited food for education.

– By Nitish Sahay

(Intern from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies)

read more
Food and Education

Best of luck, dear beneficiaries!

beneficiary-examination

It’s that time of the year again. Final exams are underway and children across the country are frantically studying to move on to the next class. This is a hugely important time for children, especially those from low income families studying in Government schools. This is a chance for them to show their parents that they made the right choice in sending their children to school instead of earning money for the family.

But their success in school hasn’t come overnight. Many children attending Government schools have suffered severe malnutrition because of the hard conditions they live with at home. Often their parents barely make enough money to feed their child even one square meal a day, and the results are obvious in stunted physical growth, low energy levels, poor ability to concentrate and assimilate information, poor language and social skills, and more.

Driven by hunger and the lure of Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme, many children enrol in school to enjoy at least one healthy, filling meal in the day. Over time, regular access to this nutritious food has helped the children overcome their problems to a large extent, and allowed them to start performing well in class.

The good food that all the Akshaya Patra beneficiaries enjoy when they attend school has helped over 1.4 million children across India become healthier both physically and mentally, and attend classes regularly too. This combination of good health, regular attendance in school, and personal determination has gone a long way in preparing the children to excel in their final examinations.

We’re rooting for them for their examinations and for all their success in the future too!

read more
Food and Education

Supporting women through food and employment

WOMENS-DAY

With Women’s Day approaching we have taken a moment to reflect on how we, at Akshaya Patra, work to support the young girls and women of India. Equal opportunity in employment or sustenance, regardless of gender, has always been a core value of Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme. The Foundation has worked to support women in three major ways.

  1. Feeding the girl child – In many parts of India, the girl child is still considered a burden on the household. While sons are encouraged to study (if income permits it), often the girls have to stay at home to help with household chores or look after their younger siblings. But with Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme parents gladly send their daughters to school too since it gives them one less mouth to feed for the day. Through this programme all children – both boys and girls – get the benefit of regular healthy food, and education too.
  2. Permanent employment – Akshaya Patra offers equal opportunities to both men and women in the kitchens. The Foundation employs nearly 800 women in the centralised kitchens across India, and over 1400 women in the decentralised kitchens run in Baran and Nayagarh. These decentralised kitchens are run by women Self-Help Groups in the region. The employment of women not only provides the women and their families with economic independence, it also boosts their self-esteem and local standing. They serve as role models to other young girls encouraging them to study hard and earn a good living.
  3. Support at Anganwadis – Akshaya Patra serves food to infants, pregnant women and lactating mothers at local Anganwadis. This is to ensure that at this time of their lives where adequate nutrition is vital, Akshaya Patra provides them with all the support they require.

This is our way of ensuring we celebrate women, not only on one day, but all year round. Help us give more education and employment to the young girls and ladies of India. Make a donation here.

read more
Food and Education

Nurturing aspirations with nutrition

case-studies-aspirations

Providing food for education is a worthy cause in itself, but for us there is nothing greater than seeing the impact our programme has had on the lives of our beneficiaries themselves. We spoke to some of the students benefitting from our programme about their dreams and aspirations, and this is what they had to say.

16 year old Amit Kumar aims to be an artist. He has already received many awards for his talent, and is considered the Picasso of his school. He is so bright, and fluent in Kannada, that he was promoted from class II to class IV directly.

Geeta is just 12 years old but she already knows she wants to become a doctor. She has chosen this profession because she wants to help low income families who can’t enjoy the benefit of proper health care.

Haider Ali is 14 years old and studies in class VIII. Haider aspires to be an electronic engineer in honour of his father who passed away last year. “That’s what my father did, he was my idol, I want to become like him,” he says.

12 year old Shivu wants to become a scientist one day. He is already thrilled with the idea of experimenting and creating new inventions. He loves science, but also social studies because he loves to learn about the history of different things.

These are just a few of the beneficiaries who inspired us with their big dreams, and bigger hearts. We know that with all of us supporting them, their passion will only lead them to success in the future. Help us support more dreams like theirs. Make a donation here.

read more
1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Page 5 of 11