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Running a clean, healthy workplace

someshekara-supervisor

“No matter what happens, we have to deliver food to all schools on time. No matter what,” says Someshekara. Though it is no easy task serving freshly cooked food to more than 17,000* children everyday, he helps Akshaya Patra’s Mangalore kitchen meets its high standards through constant supervision and strict adherence to a timeline.

Highly energetic and diligent, there is very little that passes by in the kitchen without Someshekara’s notice. From making sure that every employee is wearing his or her hairnet and gloves, to ensuring that all the vessels are thoroughly cleaned, he attends to the smallest details of kitchen operations. He receives feedback from the inspection head to make sure that the right amount of food reaches all schools.

With two years of experience in the Bangalore kitchen and another two in Mangalore, Someshekara is well versed in the dynamics of managing people and running operations on a day to day basis. He has very strong belief on the type of employees who meet the Foundation’s criteria.

“What we want above all at Akshaya Patra,” he says, “are people who are dedicated. And then, neatness. Neatness is very important.”

His work gives him a great sense of satisfaction, he says. “Many people in our Mangalore kitchen, especially the ladies, are here simply because we serve children. They’re not here out of necessity. We all work very hard. Everyone has to contribute and help everyone else out. That’s very important,” he says with pride.

“Safety and hygiene is very important,” he says. “They insist on it at Akshaya Patra. We work with steam at very high temperatures. And that is risky. We have to be very diligent.”

*As of March 2011

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Effluent Treatment Plant in Hubli

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An appealing garden graces the Hubli kitchen campus, adding a serene quality to the sleek modern architecture of the building. Immaculately maintained, it is a testament to Akshaya Patra’s ‘go green’ efforts in Hubli, where we are aiming for ISO14000 certification.

One of the successful initiatives of these efforts is the effluent treatment plant (ETP) that has been running for nearly a year. Laxman Wakkunda, who is part of the team responsible for smooth running of the ETP explains how the plant functions. “Water from vegetable cutting, rice cleaning and vessel washing all comes in separately to the plant,” he says, pointing to pipes leading from the kitchen into the ETP. It flows naturally into a series of troughs of differing heights, getting progressively cleaner as it flows from one trough to another. Laxman prepares the culture needed to clean the water everyday, which includes approximately 2kgs of sugar and half a kg of salt. “We use around 20 liters of it daily,” he adds. “We prepare it 24 hours in advance.”

Maintaining and running the ETP is a 24 hour job according to him. “The kitchen shift starts as early as 2:30 in the morning, and our work begins from then,” he says. Laxman works together with his co-worker Hanumanth Gathanavar to manage the day to day operations of the plant.

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Best ‘bhagidari’ award by Delhi Government

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Akshaya Patra was recognized as the best ‘Bhagidari’ [Partnership effort] under social development by the Government of Delhi. Akshaya Patra was selected among 14 non-governmental organizations to participate in the two-day annual Bhagidari Mela hosted by the Government of Delhi on 9th and 10th April 2011 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. This event also witnessed the participation of 45 departments of Delhi government and several resident welfare associations (RWA).

Mela was inaugurated by the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Saturday 9th April. The inaugural ceremony had vibrant performances in the form of street plays (nukkad nataks), folk performances, magic shows and performance by local music bands. Interactive stalls were put up by various government departments such as Delhi Jal board, departments of education, environment, police, women welfare, mission convergence, aap ki rasoi, ladli, disaster management and many others. Akshaya Patra which has partnered with the Government of Delhi to run Aap ki Rasoi programme was invited to have its stall in the mela to promote the scheme. The Delhi Government, through this mela intends to spread awareness about several projects which contribute towards the development of the state.

On the 10th April, Akshaya Patra received a certificate of recognition and momento for being the best ‘Bhagidari’ under social development by Delhi CM for the implementation of Aap Ki rasoi programme in an efficient manner.

As of now, Akshaya Patra, under the banner of Aap ki Rasoi is feeding nearly 1300 homeless and underprivileged people across five locations in Delhi. Akshaya Patra is thankful to all the visitors of the mela and its proud partners ITC Maurya and Taj group for their support.

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‘A rupee a day’ to feed more children

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It is not about huge donations or big investments but a minimum help from all of us for somebody who needs it more, believed students of the Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad. As part of the study programme the students were required to prepare a business plan and execute it. The goal of the project was to make a profit of minimum Rs. 1. For this project, students were divided into groups and each group came up with unique ideas on different ventures where they can earn a profit of at least one rupee a day. Every idea the group expressed was worth executing it and indeed profitable.

A rupee a day The students however did not stop at this, and extended the one rupee profit project to a social cause campaign by naming it as “A Rupee A Day” by which each student in the college contributed collectively a rupee a day, for a week, Also the campaign’s aim was to educate and endorse the importance of individual social responsibilities among future managers, End of one week they raised a sum of Rs. 5000 from 300 students and decided to hand it over to Akshaya Patra to feed more children.” ‘TAPF, with no self motive’ has unremittingly dedicated its efforts to serve a great purpose and we feel privileged to have been able to be a part of this wonderful mission.” Says Ravi Shah, one of the team members of the ‘A Rupee a Day’ team.

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Bloggers Throng ‘City of Joy’ for Akshaya Patra

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On a sunny morning of Sunday, a community of bloggers from the city of joy woke up to gather around for a cause. A cause focused at feeding 5 million under-privileged children by the end of this decade. Over 100 bloggers from Kolkata and around trickled in to support Akshaya Patra Foundation, the world’s largest NGO-run school mid day meal programme in continuing their magical endeavour of feeding almost 1.3 million kids across 18 locations in India. An initial attempt by this community of internet enthusiasts was to put their voice into words, not by typing on a computer screen, but by using spray paint onto a huge plain white graffiti board placed on the stage. One of the messages, loud and clear was “Get them out of jobs… Get them into schools”. The gathering consisted of bloggers from diversified fields. Some wrote personal blogs while the others focused on technical developments. A few others seemed to have passion in art and literature. However each one present had a common fervor…a common cause to support Akshaya Patra and help the foundation to reach out and fight hunger and poverty.

IndiBlogger. a community of 25,000 Indian bloggers spread across the world, brought together over 100 members of their community. A huge contribution concealed in a non-contemporary fashion as the core objective of IndiBlogger.In is to understand, measure and promote the Indian blogging culture and thereby bringing the community to blog for a noble cause.

Click here to view the Photo Gallery of Akshaya Patra Indiblogger meet in Kolkata

Indiblogger_kolkata_img2 The platform for the Indiblogger meet in Kolkata was firmly set by Infinity Infotech Parks Ltd, a collaboration of great minds who have helped Akshaya Patra in walking an extra mile in the journey so far. Mr. Pulak Chamaria, President and Executive Director of Infinity graced the occasion with his presence. “Communities such as these coming together to support the vision of Akshaya Patra Foundation is overwhelming” he said. Mr. Suparno Moitra, Regional Manager, NASSCOM, who has been a well-wisher of Akshaya Patra also spoke on the occasion and said “It is each one of our responsibility to go back home and get at least 2 supporters for Akshaya Patra which would help in increasing the supporter base for Akshaya Patra”.

 

Kolkata Indiblogger meet An inspiring video of a speech delivered by Mr. N R Narayan Murthy, Founder-Chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd engaged the audience and provided them with more insight about the Foundation. Interactive activities as a part of the half-day event encouraged several bloggers to be enthusiastic of volunteering for Akshaya Patra. “I am very excited about volunteering for Akshaya Patra. I would go back home and write blogs about the good work being done by the foundation” said one of the bloggers who attended the meet.

The event concluded with a flavor of music revolving around children by ‘Five Little Indians’ a popular rock band in Kolkata.

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Lunch with Kenny & Erica Jones

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It is mid-noon on a warm Thursday and a blue bus can be seen winding its way through ceaseless Bangalore city traffic to Tasker Town, a bustling area in the heart of the metropolitan. The bus comes to a stop outside the colonial style building of Govt. Telugu High School as children rush out into the commotion of the city to greet its arrival. Two men, dressed in blue, jump out to unload its eagerly awaited contents: glistening steel containers filled with delicious rice and sambar, the Southern Indian staple food.

Everyday, at around 12 o’clock, Akshaya Patra’s blue bus arrives at the school delivering freshly cooked food for its more than 160 students. Everyday, it is greeted with the same enthusiastic smiles.

For Kenny and Erica Jones, however, this no everyday experience. Though the couple from America has travelled the world for years and been living in India for nearly 15 months now, they have never witnessed anything like this before. “It’s something else to see it in action,” says Erica, who came to fully understand Akshaya Patra’s work at a Search Marketing Summit held by the children’s non-profit, where industry leaders from around the world met to discuss the latest techniques and trends in internet marketing. Erica, one of the guest speakers at the Summit, with special expertise in video marketing, says she was amazed by the scale of the Foundation’s operations. “You feed lunch to more than 1.2 million hungry children around India. And I can’t believe you do it everyday!” she adds.

Kenny, who hosts the wildly popular ‘On Air with Kenny Jones’ morning show on Radio Indigo 91.9 FM, one of the leading English radio stations in the country, is surprised at how little it takes to actually feed a child for year. “Is it just US $11.50 did you say to sponsor a child for a year? Wow, that’s incredible,” he says.

As 12:30 approaches, a palpable restlessness permeates the classrooms. Outside, selected 7th standard students, the eldest in the school, are preparing for lunch time. They set the containers of rice, sambar and curd on a wooden bench in the cool shade of a tree in the school yard. They rinse the serving spoons and plates in preparation for meal time.

The lunch bell rings as students file outside in neat rows under the strict supervision of their Headmistress, Ms. Kusum.

mysore_kenny&erica02 “Many of the children come here from very distant areas in the city and they leave home early morning, a lot of times without any breakfast,” she says, “for them, this food is very essential. Sometimes both parents will be working and they don’t have time to prepare a meal in the morning. There is one boy here who is being raised by a single parent. If his mother falls ill, then it becomes very difficult for him to eat food. Who will cook? The average salary she may get for a month is around Rs. 1000, but in Bangalore it costs at least around Rs. 100 for a family to eat for a day. It becomes very difficult for people to make ends meet.”

However, the overall change has been positive over the years, says the headmistress. More children are attending school regularly and fewer are dropping out. “There are many opportunities these days that were not there before. To tell you the truth, these children are very bright and talented. They just need to be guided and helped in the right direction. That’s where schemes like the mid-day meal program are very helpful,” she adds.

The mid-day meal program was initiated by all State Governments of India in response to an order from the nation’s Supreme Court in November of 2001, which mandated that children in all government and government-aided primary schools across the country be provided with freshly cooked nutrition meals at lunch time. Today there are over 121 million children around the nation who are benefitting from the scheme, making it by far the largest such nutrition program in the world. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which is in a public-private partnership with 8 State Governments to provide children with healthy, freshly cooked meals, directly impacts 1.2 million of them. The Foundation is currently in the 11th year of program implementation and has a mission to reach out to 5 million children by 2020. A quiet settles in the school yard as the students sit down to their mid-day meal. For these children at Govt. Telugu High School, the food provided means more than just a full stomach. It means they can concentrate on their afternoon classes free from the clutches of hunger; that even if they skipped breakfast, they can rest assured that at least in school, they will get one full meal.

For Kenny and Erica, it is another memorable experience on their travels around the world that they will always remember. “It is wonderful to see such good work,” says Erica.

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Vice-Chairman to speak at TIDES Summit

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tides-2011-logo-beige<p><img style=”float: left; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/tides-2011-logo-beige.JPG” border=”0″ alt=”TIDES” title=”TIDES” />
The Vice-chairman of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa will be one of the speakers at the <a href=”http://tidescoimbatore.com/index.html”>TIDES leadership summit</a> conducted by the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries). The summit will happen on the 11th and 12th of March 2011 in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu.  </p>
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The CII works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the growth of industry in India, partnering industry and government alike through advisory and consultative processes. For the year 2010 – 11, CII has taken up the agenda of ‘Business for Livelihood’.  The TIDES summit which will also focus on this agenda has an array of eminent speakers from all walks of life including journalists, writers, actors, musicians and much more.
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American School Nutrition Program Experts Visit Jaipur Kitchen

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<p>A delegation of experts from American school nutrition program visited Akshaya Patra, Jaipur to study the centralised mid day meal program. The delegation consisted of secretaries from various states overseeing the school meal program in Government schools of USA. They expressed deep apprecaition for Akshaya Patra program for taking up serving hot cooked meal, whereas even in USA they serve only packaged meals with preservatives to the students, that way Askhaya Patra meal is more nutritous and healthy.    The delegation awarded honorary membership to Sri to Ratnangada Govind Dasa, Unit President, Akshaya Patra, Jaipur.
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Thank you Olive

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<p><a href=”http://www.olivebarandkitchen.com/” ><img style=”float: left; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/olive_img.JPG” border=”0″ alt=”Thank you Olive” title=”Olive” /></a>
Olive is an award winning chain of specialty restaurants with presence in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. It has found a cause worthy of its support in Akshaya Patra’s mission. </p>
<p>Mr. A D Singh , the Managing Director and Chef Manu Chandra  generously  offered to  host  a select  few  friends of Akshaya Patra  for dinner  on 25th  January, Tuesday  at Olive, Mahalaxmi. </p>
<p>The evening also marked the soft launch of Akshaya Nidhi, a school midday meal adoption initiative. </p>
<p>Akshaya Patra is grateful  for the support and hospitality.  Thank you Olive.</p>

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CISCO Employees Visit Akshaya Patra Kitchen

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<p style=”text-align: justify;”><img style=”float: left; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/Vasanthapura_img1.jpg” title=”CISCO Employees Visit Akshaya Patra” border=”0″ alt=”The Akshaya Patra Foundation”  />
A simple building on a small hillock at Vasanthapura belies ten years of working towards a better India.  The drive up the hill, paved with stones that make for a rough road, ends at a nondescript glass door. In the backdrop stands a formidable 270 ton silo, a silent testament to the work at hand, a clue to what lies inside the structure. On the 2nd floor of this building, a group of around 30 sit with concentrated focus to be a part of a project that has been a decade in the making. </p>
<p>It was at Akshaya Patra’s Vasanthpura kitchen, on December 8th, that a group of CISCO employees volunteered to take part in the mid-day meal program, one of the biggest developmental success stories of India. To go behind the curtains of that story, is to reveal a tale of 121 million smiles. </p>
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The mid-day meal program provides lunch to underprivileged children in Government and Government aided schools across the country. Of the 121 million children that currently benefit from the scheme, Akshaya Patra directly impacts 1.2 million, nearly 1% of the total number of beneficiaries.
And it all begins everyday in the Foundation’s 19 kitchens across the country. As the group of 30 assembled found out, it is no easy task. The mere logistics of serving the 100,000 children that the Vasanthapura kitchen reaches out to has taken years to perfect. For more than 5 hours on a cool Wednesday, the CISCO employees took part in a few of the preparations that go into making those meals. On a daily basis, that includes everything from cutting between 5-6 tons of vegetables and cooking tons of rice and dal to grating nearly 2000 fresh coconuts.  </p>
<p style=”text-align: justify;”><img style=”float:right; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/Vasanthapura_img2.jpg” title=”CISCO Employees Visit Akshaya Patra” border=”0″ alt=”Akshata Patra”  />
Closely observing the activities taking place, stands Chandrakanth Bhandarkar, in charge of hygiene on the floor. He explains how all vegetables are washed in 50 parts per million chlorine water and then thoroughly rinsed in plain water. Sectioning those vegetables into smaller pieces and chopping them in vegetable cutters are the volunteers from CISCO. </p>
<p>“It’s good to see that at least someone out there is doing something for children in the country,” says Karthik S.G.. He operates the vegetable cutting machine, surrounded by towering cartons full of freshly chopped produce. On the same 2nd floor, his colleagues help prepare the vegetables and rice that will become a part of the following day’s menu. </p>
<p>In two neat rows behind the busily working team, on the floor of the kitchen, lie glistening cylindrical lids, almost unnoticed in the flurry of activity. When Arun Kumar V., Assistant Manager of Operations lifts one lid, he reveals chutes travelling down to the 1st floor, each one corresponding to the cauldrons below where the actual cooking takes place. </p>
<p style=”text-align: justify;”><img style=”float: left; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/Vasanthapura_img3.jpg” title=”CISCO Employees Visit Akshaya Patra” border=”0″ alt=”The Akshaya Patra Foundation”  />“We use walkie talkies to co-ordinate between floors so that exactly the right amount of ingredients goes into each cauldron,” he explains.
And what exactly is the right amount? Each rice cauldron cooks close to 100 kgs of rice in 15 minutes. Each sambar cauldron is used to prepare 1200 liters of sambar using between 15 to 16 kilograms of masala. Such large quantities of rice and dal are stored on the 3rd floor of the facility, in what are known as day silos, which have a capacity of around 7 to 10 tons. These silos are refilled each day with rice from the monthly 270 ton silo outside the facility. </p>
<p>“Bucket elevators are used to take rice up into the silos. In cooking, we use single jacket steam heated cauldrons. We used to use double jackets but it took a lot of time to cook rice in those, so we changed to a single jacket. The steam is generated in boilers. Earlier diesel was the source of fuel, but now we’ve replaced that with briquettes. They’re economic, and more than that, they’re eco-friendly.”
From the cauldrons on the 1st floor, the freshly cooked food travels via chutes to the ground floor where it is packed and loaded into waiting, specially designed food vans. </p>
<p style=”text-align: justify;”><img style=”float: right; margin: 10px; border: 0px;” src=”http://www.akshayapatra.org/sites/default/files/images/Vasanthapura_img4.jpg” title=”CISCO Employees Visit Akshaya Patra” border=”0″ alt=”Akshaya Patra”  />The complexities of the entire operations are divided into various departments, each one working in synchrony with the other to prepare meals on time: maintenance, quality, distribution, purchase, housekeeping, accounts and others. This harmony of activity is precisely what impressed the CISCO employees most. </p>
<p>“It was a wonderful experience,” said Deepa as their volunteering came to an end.</p>
<p>The mid-day meal program, though a simple concept in itself, has brought about great change in India. It has been able to address many of the immediate and long term challenges faced by the nation. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization,
“The impact on governance and food security can be seen in several countries that have already recognized a “justiciable” right to food. In India, for example, the Supreme Court mandated cooked lunches in all of the country’s schools. Both nutrition and school attendance have improved dramatically where the programme has been implemented, particularly among girls. Given the critical role of maternal nutrition and education in breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty, the benefits will be felt for generations to

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