Consuming With Care This Earth Day!

720-X-240 Earth Day!

Each year the world unites to celebrate Earth Day on 22 April to demonstrate their support and concern for global environmental issues. This modern environmental movement is observed to put an end to the escalating issues of environmental degradation and to increase awareness among people to make a bid for change!

We the 7.4 billion inhabiting this planet, must understand that this is our only home, and it is our collective responsibility to preserve it so that we can pass on a green planet to our next generation. Hence we at Akshaya Patra have adopted certain eco-friendly initiatives, in our attempt to redress our earth from this cesspool of environmental degradation.

480-X-280 biogas imageAkshaya Patra as a part of its Go Green initiative has adopted a new organic waste to biogas system at its Ballari kitchen. This Biogas technology is among the most proven processes, which converts organic waste into energy. This Bio Gas plant processes 1,000 Kg of kitchen waste per day that includes vegetable rejects, cooked food waste, replacing LPG. On an average this technology helps us save around three LPG cylinders per day. Besides converting vegetable wastes and cooked food wastes and rejects into LPG it also generates large volumes of enriched organic manure through anaerobic fermentation, which can supplement or even replace chemical fertilizers.

A similar Biogas plant has also been installed in our Vasanthapura kitchen in Bengaluru. This plant produces 1,400 kilograms of Biogas monthly that is equal to 700 kilograms of LPG. Hence approximately Rs 38,500 is saved every month towards LPG purchase. Besides reducing cost towards purchasing LPG, it also helps in eco-friendly handling of food wastages approximately 20 metric tonne every month.

These Biogas plants significantly lower the greenhouse effects on the earth’s atmosphere. The plants also lower methane emissions by entrapping the harmful gas and using it as fuel. Biogas is also an efficient way of energy conversion as it saves non-renewable source of energy. It also helps in effective disposal of kitchen wastes and effluents thereby improving hygiene and most importantly the environment.

Another environment friendly initiative adopted by Akshaya Patra is the Solar plant in our Vasanthapura Kitchen in Bengaluru. This plant has the capacity to produce 1100 units of power a month that is used to run all kitchen appliances. This solar plant runs through the use of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to direct electricity saving Rs 8,000 per month. The electricity generated through these PV cells helps in running the entire kitchen facility till four am in the morning.

Besides the Biogas Plant and the Solar Plant, Akshaya Patra has also opted for other green practices. One such initiative is the implementation of effluent treatment plants in our kitchens that help in efficient handling of run-offs and wastes. We have also optimised our meal delivery routes to reduce carbon emissions. Akshaya Patra has also implemented the use of Biomass briquettes as fuel for our boilers substituting coal and charcoal, thereby conserving non-renewable source of energy that is fast depleting from our planet.

Akshaya Patra is also aiming to adopt these green technologies not only in our Karnataka kitchens but across all our kitchens in Pan India. Committed to working towards a greener future, we are constantly looking out for ways of implementing eco-friendly technologies in our kitchens that will ensure reduction of negative human impact on the environment as well as replace the use of LPG in our kitchens.

Akshaya Patra as a non-governmental organisation is happy to do its bit towards conserving our planet and its resources. We at Akshaya Patra sincerely believe that most of the environmental concerns would disappear if humans refrain from using coal, petroleum and natural gas for power generation, and shift their focus on renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and hydroelectricity that are naturally replenished!




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International Women’s Day: Women Who Inspire


“The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that … women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.” – Louise Otto

Annually, March 8 is observed as International Women’s Day to celebrate women’s economic, political, and social achievements throughout history. While the same is observed across the world, many women are of the opinion that there need not be a designated day to celebrate their courage and strength.

Women’s Day is meant to spread awareness about the progress women have made over the years. It’s always good to spread the word about someone’s achievements as they then inspire thousands of others; point in case the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who braved terror to fight for female education.

There is no dearth of such inspirational stories. Take, for instance, the story of American tennis player, Billie Jean King, who fought for equal pay in the sport, or Rosa Parks, whose refusal to vacate her seat became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Then there were women like Hellen Keller, who campaigned for deaf and blind people after losing her hearing ability and sight at the age of 19, and Margaret Thatcher, who defied all odds to become the first female Prime minister of Great Britain.

Names like Maria Sharapova, Saina Nehwal, and Mary Kom, who have taken the sporting world by storm, need no introduction. Then there are the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Chanda Kocchar, CEO of ICICI Bank, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, etc., who have made it big in the corporate world. Each of these women—and many more like them—have inspired thousands of others to achieve what they want to.

Back home, we have a whole list of inspiring women; Rani Laxmibai, Savitribai Phule, and Annie Besant being some of them. Also, there are women who dedicated their entire life for a cause. One apt example of the same is Mother Theresa, a selfless nun who served people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc., throughout her life.

You don’t need to look beyond your surroundings to find women who are putting in great deal of efforts to ensure that things are smooth; your mother or wife, or maybe your colleague. In fact, we at Akshaya Patra are surrounded by these superheroes who work tirelessly to bring about smiles on children’s face.

You yourself must have looked up to some of these women for inspiration. If you have, we would like to know who was your inspiration and why. You can share it with us here or on Facebook. Like we said earlier, it’s important that the remarkable achievements of these women reach out to the whole world as their stories have the potential to inspire.

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Towards Social Justice, One Meal at a Time


In his message for the World Day of Social Justice, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.

As a concept, social justice stresses on equality in terms of wealth distribution, opportunities, and privileges in a society. While that may seem elementary, it’s something that our society needs to be reminded of, every now and then, and that’s why 20th of February every year is observed as the World Day of Social Justice.

On paper, it definitely comes across as something noble—the concept that is, and it’s highly unlikely that you will come across someone who doesn’t speak in its favor. However, when it comes to application, even the ardent supporters of the concept tend to falter; courtesy, inherent bias.

The divide between haves and have-nots is perhaps nowhere as stark as it is in schools in our country. Imagine, during the lunch break, some children are eating from their lunch boxes, while some have to settle with water, as they can’t afford food. It may come as a surprise, but that was exactly the case in several parts of the country until recently.

Then came the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS), to implement which the Government of India got into a partnership with certain NGOs; The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) being one of them. It brought about a positive change in our society and took us a step closer towards a world where there would be no need to observe a day to remind us of the importance of social justice.

Having said that, it’s important to note that Akshaya Patra had set on this path long before the Mid-day Meal Scheme was initiated. It came into being in the year 2000 and 15 years down, has reached far and wide. The pan-India spread of Akshaya Patra, with 24 kitchens across ten states, serving over 1.5 million children in over 11,000 schools every day, means there is no scope to falter.

It’s doesn’t make sense to have a wide reach, if you are not able to adapt to the requirements of different regions. Therefore, regardless of whether it is Baran in Rajasthan or Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Akshaya Patra thrives to stay true to the local preferences, which is why the diet is wheat-based in North India and rice-based in the south.

It’s always important to walk the talk; all the more when it comes to social justice, and Akshaya Patra, with improving socialisation among castes as one of its objectives, does that and more. In fact, Akshaya Patra prides itself in being a secular organisation. In a country where caste has long been reinforced in the social fibre, it’s important to put in efforts to break the caste divide. What better way to do that, but to use meals to bring children together—staying true to the phrase, bonding over food.

We often hear about how Akshaya Patra thrives to address issues like hunger and malnutrition in the country by eliminating classroom hunger. While the focus is indeed on eliminating classroom hunger and at the same time, improving enrolment and attendance, it doesn’t mean its impact is restricted to the field of education and nutrition. There are other areas where the organisation is having an impact; promoting socialisation among castes is one of them; facilitating women empowerment by providing employment opportunities is another.

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Be our catalysts of change!

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Every year on 26 January India ardently gears up to celebrate its Republic Day with invigorated zeal and honour to mark the evolution of a ‘Republic India’ from British hegemony. The flavour of the day is showcased by royal parades, spectacular aerobatics by Indian fighter jets showcasing cultural wealth, martial supremacy and sky soaring patriotic fervour. It is a day of celebration for every Indian as Indian citizens unitedly celebrate this day by putting cultural and communal differences in their backseat.

But in the midst of festivity and gala we often become oblivious of the fact that though we have attained sovereignty there are certain teething challenges in India that have been a concern for the nation since its inception. One such challenge is food insecurity leading to poverty and malnutrition. The day food insecurity will cease to prevail in India; citizens will witness a new dawn of a truly republic and welfare India.

Hence recognising the importance of eradicating hunger and malnutrition, we at the Akshaya Patra family since 2000 have made continual strides to feed as many children we can through our Mid-Day Meal Programme. We humbly started with feeding 1500 children and today we are feeding 1.58 million children every day across India.

Akshaya Patra truly believes that on this Republic Day we all should become catalysts of change to build resilience against hunger so that our children do not face food insecurity. We strongly urge every individual to associate with our humanitarian cause and donate towards feeding more vulnerable and undernourished children so that with your support and contribution we can march towards our mission “to feed 5 million children by 2020”

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Education is our right too!

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For women the most straightforward and rational path to empowerment is education! With education comes the immediate benefit of empowered girls who can participate equally like men in the political, social, cultural and economic affairs of one’s country. The benefit of educated girls does not limit to well-establishment on an individual level but it also leads to the depth and quality of a nation’s workforce.

According to a recent study conducted in 95 nations by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reported that “India can increase its 2025 gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at $4.83 trillion, by between 16% and 60% simply by enabling women to participate in the economy on par with men.” Sadly India records as a nation with one of the world’s largest gender gaps in matters of labour force participation generating a mere of only 17% of India’s GDP. This gender gap leads to condense or no education for girls at all.

The low-slung concern attached to girls’ education in India is much owing to certain stereotypical deep-rooted features of gender relations and biases like:

• Gender division of labour
• The stringent norms of patrilocal residence; village exogamy
• The infamous practice of dowry
• Girls being considered as slow learners, irrational
• Family prejudice towards girls’ education
• Increasing ideology of a male child
• Higher preference for son’s education
• The received idea of men as breadwinners

These factors have only intensified with time leading to girls being deprived of education, their only roadway to empowerment, gender equality, greater financial independence, security and freedom from violence and discrimination.

Hence, India since Independence has made continuous strides to educate her girls and combat burning issues like gender based inequality, girls being confined to domestic thresholds, pressures of poverty halting girls’ education, reduced enrolment rates and high drop-out rates of girls in schools.

India understands that a literate mother can function as a life source for her children as she can help her children identify importance of basic hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. Moreover she can also contribute considerably to her family’s income thereby ensuring financial security for the entire family.

Hence recognising the importance of education for girls the Government has initiated numerous educational programmes and schemes to accord more importance to girls’ education. Six such top education schemes are:

• Shiksha Sahayog Yojana
• Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
• Saakshar Bharat
• Kanya Saaksharta Protsahan Yojna
• Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Yojna
• Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

With these schemes in place, it is evident that the Government is definitely making efforts but it is time that we do our bit. On this National Girl Child Day, we could all work together to educate girls so that they can make decisions and influence community change in key areas thereby uplifting their own socio-economic status.

At Akshaya Patra, we are determined to reach education to every girl child through our Mid-Day Meal Programme. Often, one wholesome meal a day is enough motivation for the child to come to school.

‘Educate girls to nurture society’ is what we believe in and every morsel served is to bring children closer to education.


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Shannu Kaw, Our New Member of Board of Advisors!


Shannu Kaw, Director- Global Business Services at Cisco Systems has joined Akshaya Patra as an advisory member. She is a multi-faceted and dynamic business leader with over 19 years of rich experience in the Technology Industry across areas of Business Operations, Procurement, Product Development and Software Engineering.

Shannu at present is functioning as Director, Global Business Services (GBS) at Cisco; she is in charge for managing Cisco’s Indirect spends in Asia Pacific and Japan which includes Strategic Partnerships, Procurement Operations, Spend Optimization and Procurement Relationship Management for the region. She in her 15+ years in Cisco has held various leadership positions which include Head of Global Partner Engineering and Contingent Labour, leading New Business Incubation and Software Development.

Prior to Cisco, Shannu has worked with Huges Software Systems and GAIL. She is the founding member of the Cisco India Civic Council and leads Cisco’s giving back initiatives like the Global Hunger Relief Programme and School Adopt Programme. She is also on the advisory board of WeConnect India, an industry forum for supporting Supplier Diversity and Women Entrepreneurs.

Shannu is an Alumnus of IIM-Bangalore (Executive General Management) and BITS Pilani (Electrical and Electronics Engineering). Beyond work, she is an avid reader and supports various social and community initiatives.

Shannu’s business acumen and expert guidance will further propel Akshaya Patra to a glorious journey of sustainability and growth!

Watch a conversation with Shannu Kaw, Director for Global Business Services at Cisco Systems

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Vicky Roy: From street child to shutterbug


Vicky Roy has had an interesting past. His life is a success story that is inspiring and captivating to not just the underprivileged, but to those who are on the path to success like our beneficiaries, and even those of us who could be considered blessed.

Vicky ran away from home at the innocent age of 11 to escape the conditions of his life. He lived a life of a street child working as a rag picker and collecting bottles to be sold. He even worked in a street side restaurant washing dishes till he eventually found shelter in an NGO.

This is where his life changed. In 2001 when his friend took part in a photography workshop, and visited Sri Lanka and Indonesia, Vicky became intrigued by the idea of photography. In fact, it was his desire to travel that led Vicky to discover his passion for photography, and follow this passion to the place where everything started – back to the streets. He took on his first project Street Dreams which was sponsored by the British High Commission. The exhibition was grand success, and travelled to London, South Africa and Vietnam. Showcasing the lives of street children and their dreams for a better future, Vicky’s personal experience and empathy allowed him to connect fully with the children of the street and bring his photographs to life.

Vicky attended ICP (International Centre of Photography), the best photography school in the world, and was asked to photo document the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. Discovering a confidence in himself and his talent Vicky even found himself lunching with Prince Andrew in Buckingham Palace!

Vicky’s life story is one of grit and determination; he is one of the famous speakers of TEDx and INK Talks. Even today Vicky has not forgotten his humble beginnings and mentors young beneficiaries at NGOs in the art of photography. Vicky extended this same generosity to Akshaya Patra when he worked with us pro bono.

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Supporting social entrepreneurship in India’s youth


There is nothing more impressive than nurturing young minds in encouragement of social entrepreneurship. And that’s what the Jagriti Yatra, started by the not-for-profit organisation Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, is all about. This initiative is a 15 day journey across the length and breadth of India that culminates in the 450 entrepreneurs applying the lessons they have learnt in the Biz Gyan Tree initiative in the Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh.

Through their travels so far these entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to understand the business model behind Karnataka’s Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya which is powered through solar energy, been trained in brand building at Chennai’s Royal Enfield Factory and taught operations and scalability at Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in Visakhapatnam, amongst others. Akshaya Patra was extremely proud to have contributed to the education of these eager entrepreneurs.

Explaining what is expected of these young ‘yatris’ Shashank Mani, Chairman of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan says, “This initiative allows hands-on experience of starting your own business with Deoria district as a setting. Now that the students have got a macro picture of India’s local businesses, it is time to work on-field, understand the problems of the villagers and come up with solutions.”

After these educational tours the participants will spend time in eight villages of Deoria speaking with local farmers, owners of small businesses and schools to devise business proposals. From these 20 proposals will be selected for a four month residential exercise in the month of March. Based on the best innovation, achievability and local relevance, the four best groups will be chosen and awarded a Rs. 1 lakh grant to help them start their business.

These creative initiatives coupled with young inventive minds are certain to bring about a positive change in the lives of citizens all over India. Akshaya Patra is honoured to have been chosen as an example of innovation for this programme, and looks forward to future involvement in this worthy cause.

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Gururaj Deshpande speaks to Forbes India


Philanthropist billionaire Gururaj Deshpande was recently featured in an article by Forbes India. ‘Desh’ Deshpande as he is often called is well known for his Deshpande Foundation, and for his appointment to the Co-Chairmanship of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship by US President Barack Obama, amongst other significant achievements.

Interestingly, Deshpande approaches philanthropy in much the same way as he does his role as an entrepreneur. “An idea does not have an impact unless it is directed at some burning problem in the world,” he told Forbes India in a telephone conversation from Boston.

In 2008, the venture capitalist and entrepreneur took on the role of Chairman of the US wing of The Akshaya Patra Foundation. The kitchen in Deshpande’s hometown of Hubli was built as a joint effort a decade ago with contributions by the billionaire and his brother-in-law NR Narayana Murthy (co-founder of Infosys).

However Deshpande does not contribute money towards the daily running of Akshaya Patra’s kitchens. Staying true to his ability to approach every philanthropic project with the heart of an entrepreneur Deshpande believes that the kitchens need to be able to support themselves. “I chair its fundraising committee in the US, but don’t contribute to daily expenses,” he says.

Deshpande also goes on to explain how his thirty years as an entrepreneur have enabled him to view his philanthropic activities through the same lens. “As an entrepreneur, you need to identify a problem and scale up. The same holds true for this (philanthropy) space,” he says.

Read the Forbes India coverage of Gururaj Deshpande here:

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Akshaya Patra hosts 3 blood donation camps


Aside from working to eliminate classroom hunger in India, Akshaya Patra also tries to provide its services to other agencies in need of assistance.

Recently Akshaya Patra conducted three blood donation camps in Karnataka to support hospitals in the area.

The first blood camp was held on 25th June, 2014 at HK Hill with 56 participants donating blood to the programme.

Tremendous participation at HK Hill blood donation camp
Tremendous participation at HK Hill blood donation camp

On 13th November, 2014 the blood camp at Bellary brought in a total of 50 donors.

Cheerfully giving at Bellary blood donation camp
Cheerfully giving at Bellary blood donation camp

The blood camp at the Vasanthapura (VK Hill) was undertaken on 29th November, 2014 in association with ESI Hospital. A total number of 59 donors participated in the programme.

Helping out for a worthy cause at VK Hill
Helping out for a worthy cause at VK Hill

We are thrilled to have been given an opportunity to provide assistance to such a worthy cause. We look forward to when we can next contribute in any way we can.

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