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Food and Education

Food and Education

A Plate Full of Wellbeing

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Ever wondered how Akshaya Patra decides what is right for its beneficiaries? Here is the answer.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation works towards providing the right kind of food to the children with guidance from the Government. After much discussion and research, we decide the daily menu for the children. Below are excerpts from an interview with our nutrition specialist at the Foundation.

1. How is the right quantity of nutrients determined for each child?
The right quantity of nutrients for each child has been determined as per the National Programme of Mid Day Meal in Schools (MDMS) specified by the government of India.

As per their age group, certain norms are set pertaining to nutrition. A cooked midday meal should primarily provide 450 calories and 12 gm of protein to a child in the age group of 6-10 years. A child who is about 11 to 15 years of age needs a total of 700 Calories and 20 gm of Protein. These meals should also include micro nutrients like Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin A and so on, in adequate quantities.

2. What are the top nutrients each child needs and how is Akshaya Patra ensuring they get these?
Children require different kinds of nutrients but most important are energy, protein, folic acid, vitamin A, iron, calcium and zinc.

The Akshaya Patra recipes contain different food groups (cereals, pulses, vegetables, spices, sugar and jaggery, edible oil and more) to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients.

The recipes are standardised by calculating nutritive values referring the NIN guidelines (nutritive value for Indians as per the National institute of Nutrition ICMR Hyderabad) and our recipes are verified through external lab analysis.

3. How is the quality standard of raw material maintained while procuring for the mid-day meal?
The quality of raw materials is ensured by Supplier Quality Management Programmes. The raw material specifications are circulated to suppliers to ensure they deliver good quality raw materials. The raw materials are thoroughly checked by the TAPF quality team before accepting them for use in the kitchen.

The raw materials need to meet the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and AGMARK specifications. They are stored following proper storage practices and are utilised as per FIFO (First In First Out) FEFO (First Expiry First Out).

4. What are the health benefits of providing good nutrition?
It helps in overall growth and development of the body and helps to prevent micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia, vitamin A deficiency and so on. Good nutrition is also scientifically proven to aid the cognitive development of growing children, a factor vital towards helping children succeed in school.

5. Has there been a marked difference in the health of children consuming the mid-day meal (physically and mentally)?
Yes, sufficient intake of the meals has helped and continues to help in the overall development of children belonging to underprivileged sections of the society. It has also helped curb issues like malnutrition, mortality rates, stunted mental and physical growth in underserved children.
The mid-day meal has helped eradicate classroom hunger. Children are now able to concentrate in the classroom and there is an increased participation in extracurricular activities as well.

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Food and Education

The recipe for success

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It is no secret that food brings millions of children to school every day. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to give them well-balanced meals, and a foundation for life through education. We have strived to provide children with an alternative future, one that is stronger, brighter and full of possibilities. We have cooked one healthy meal after another, combining our food with special ingredients, and creating a recipe for success.
So what are the special ingredients that go into this recipe for success?

Love

This is the key ingredient in making any dish tasty. Our staff prepares each meal with care, going over the most minute details. They are dedicated to the cause of educating children by giving them wholesome meals.

Schooling basics

If a child needs to succeed, his/her foundation needs to be solid. Education can help do that. The food brings them to schools, and here they learn everything they need to know to change their destinies.

Supportive parents

By providing food at schools, we are giving parents every reason to send their children to school. Their nurturing guidance and encouragement can help children go a long way.

Good nourishment

This is at the heart of our programme. We give children what they cannot otherwise get; a good, healthy meal. The food we provide gives them a burst of energy that keeps them active for school and after.

With these key ingredients, we have cooked many a happy meal. It has helped many children escape the bonds of child labour and get back into schools.

What do you have to say about our recipe for success? Leave us a comment and let us know.

If you would also like to help us stir up a special pot of success, click here.

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Food and Education

What makes every Akshaya Patra meal a balanced diet

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A balanced diet is one which contains a proper concentration of essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and so on, that help the body function well and maintain good health. This is a necessity in every individual. However, a balanced diet in children is an absolute necessity. At The Akshaya Patra Foundation, we don’t just prepare meals for children; we make sure that every meal that reaches our beneficiaries is enriched with the required components for their physical, cognitive and mental development.

Vitamins and Minerals: Beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots are the most common ingredients found in the mid-day meal on any given day. These are rich in vitamins and minerals that are highly responsible for the mental growth and cognitive development in children.

Carbohydrates: The Akshaya Patra kitchens situated in the Southern region of India prepare rice to suit the local palate, whereas in the North, we provide Rotis to the children. Both the varieties contain sufficient amount of carbohydrates that help store energy in the body. This helps children stay active all through the day.

Proteins: Spinach, potatoes and pulses like lentils and beans are regularly used in the mid-day meals. A major advantage of these vegetables is that they are low in saturated fat and high in fibre which helps keep the body fit and active while also regulating the body’s metabolism.

What’s more, even the ingredients used in garnishing all the vegetable dishes like curry leaves, cardamom, coriander, cumin seeds, cloves and so on, also have some nutritional concentration in them. At every Akshaya Patra kitchen across 10 states and 22 locations in India, there is no compromise when it comes to including nutritional ingredients in the meal that a child is about to consume.

At our kitchens, we strongly believe that childhood is a sensitive period of development when growth occurs and we want to provide our children with all the nutrients they need to succeed in life.

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Food and Education

5 super foods for a child’s development

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‘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

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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

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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

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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’?

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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

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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

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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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