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Vaikuntha Hill Kitchen from a volunteer’s perspective

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation is rooted in a story of compassion. Gazing outside of a window one day in a village near Calcutta, A.C. Bhaktidevanta Swami Prabhupada witnessed a group of young children fighting with street dogs over food. This heartbreaking incident engendered a determination that would forever impact the world. Swami Prabhupada’s beliefs went against the passivity and moral turpitude that pervaded India during that time as he took an active stance in feeding India’s children by founding the Akshaya Patra Foudation. The volunteers, staff, and management of the Akshaya Patra foundation work tirelessly to fulfill this vision and embody single-mindedness and passion in serving the core belief of the foundation: “No child within a radius of ten miles from an Akshaya Patra kitchen should go hungry.”

Vaikuntha-Kitchen-Review-Varun-Singh_0The heart of the foundation, which boasts of 19 centralized kitchens across nine states in India, lies in the beautiful city of Bangalore. Born and raised in the United States, I came face to face with the true spirit of India when I set foot in the boundaries of the Akshaya Patra Vaikuntha Hill kitchen, one of the two kitchens in Bangalore. I had the pleasure of speaking with different levels of staff and management to learn about what it takes to provide food to over 600 schools.

I interviewed Mr. Muthuprasanna, a human resources representative at the Akshaya Patra Vaikuntha Hill kitchen, to gain a clear picture of how the kitchen functions to meet its goals:

Question: What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
Answer: Working for a cause that is oriented towards development. There are a group of people whose intention is working for a mission from the ground level up. We all align together for a common goal and the single-mindedness of making children smile is the most satisfying thing in our day.

Question: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Answer: Educating the employees. Many come from a rural and less-educated background and training employees to meet safety standards is time-consuming but rewarding. We go out of our way to ensure that all levels of staff feel part of the family by offering a spoken English class and computer course within the foundation’s boundaries. They have not gained such opportunities in their villages, and many staff workers report that working with the foundation is incredibly fulfilling.

Question: What is the organization’s ultimate goal?
Answer: To ensure that no child in India is deprived of education because of hunger. I personally see Akshaya Patra as a means for children to rise up and involve in society. These children will eventually build our nation’s economy and are our future.

Question: What makes the kitchen run so efficiently?
Answer: Our employees are extremely passionate about working. Delivering meals to feed children as they run to the Akshaya Patra vans offers happiness to both the workers and the children they feed.

Question: How does your department, human resources, play a role in the kitchen?
Answer: Human resources department recruits people from villages around Bangalore area, trains them, and makes sure that all standards and regulations are met. The foundation continuously engages its staff with get-togethers, birthday celebrations, and other events that make the foundation come together and spend some good time with each other. The Vaikuntha Hill kitchen has succeeded in covering 600 schools, ensuring that virtually every school-going child in this area can study and explore his or her individual interests without the burden of hunger.

Question: Is Akshaya Patra’s role limited to serving meals?
Answer: The foundation expands to teaching life skills to the schoolchildren. It offers motivational exercises and encourages children to pursue their individual talents and overcome poverty.

Question: What makes the Vaikuntha Hill kitchen unique?
Answer: This is the first modern kitchen, or second-generation kitchen, in the entire nation that employs highly mechanized technologies. We have implemented highly-specialized manufacturing processes and biogas fuelling. This basically means that the waste of the kitchen is in turn used to power our cooking apparatuses. This makes sure that nothing is wasted. He went on to speak about India’s development in terms of the foundation.

Question: What is working with Arun Kumar like?
Answer: He is a young leader and takes care of everyone by ensuring quality control, overseeing operations, and performing the role of an ambassador for the group. He is an incredibly balanced and effective leader. He connects with everyone, from the kitchen floor staff to his direct staff and executives. He connects with each of them individually.

Question: What is Akshaya Patra’s role in government schools?
Answer: Government schools primarily educate children belonging to the labour class, who are below poverty line. By having a midday meal, they are able to enjoy hearty nutrition and are able to concentrate on their education and other physical activities. It is a profound benefit to the nation and to the world.

Question: What are Akshaya Patra’s goals for the future? Are they realistic?
Answer: Our mission is to serve 5 million school children by 2020, and this is absolutely realistic. Many organizations in the private and public sector are pitching in to meet our goal, as is evident from the new kitchens that are opening up in U.P. and Rajasthan. Requests pour in from different states in India like Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, to start new kitchens. I am certain that the joint efforts of our government and private sector will allow us to meet our goal.

Question: What is your family’s attitude towards your work with Akshaya Patra?
Answer: My family is proud of the work I do with the organisation. They enjoy participating in Akshaya Patra, and believe that we are directly part of developing our country in education. Nothing is more fulfilling than the work I do with the organization.

I was curious as to how such a productive kitchen was managed and kept at optimum efficiency. Mr. Arun Kumar, the manager of the Vaikuntha Hil kitchen, told me his story as well as how he handles the challenging task of managing the kitchen:

Question: What is the most rewarding part of working with Akshaya Patra?
Answer: The cause is 90% of the reasons that make me come to work every day. While I was in school, I was very curious about serving food with Akshaya Patra. I learned more from Akshaya Patra than my studies. First, I started coming twice a month and eventually, once a week. I came here to serve children. After completing my degree, I came to work here. This is the fourth year of my journey, and I love coming here every day because I see the happy faces of the children we feed.

Question: How does the Akshaya Patra Vaikuntha Hill kitchen function as a family?
Answer: They are devoted to our cause. We don’t treat them as employees, but as friends. I don’t sit from my office and tell them things to do. I go out and understand the nature of the work, and then help them meet their directive. One to one interaction is very important. Our staff feels comfortable in communicating with management. We motivate them with weekly meetings and employee engagements every month that helps them relax and find enjoyment. The daily gitas and bhajans we sing contribute to their positivity. As most workers come from a poor background, we go out of our way to provide a good facility for them to stay, a good meal for them to eat, and a comfortable working environment. We have fulfilled these needs.

Question: Who pays for Akshaya Patra meals?
Answer: The government subsidy only covers 60% of the meal cost. We need corporate funding to cover the remaining 40% as well as additional funding for maintenance, employees and food vans.

Question: How stable are donations?
Answer: Donations depend on the economic cycle. Businesses that do well donate, but in poor economic times, we bear the burden of funding on our own.

Question: Is Akshaya Patra a year round effort?
Answer: Leaving Sundays and government holidays, we always have to cook and feed all 600 schools.

Question: Though Akshaya Patra finds its roots in ISKCON, is it true that it is a secular organization?
Answer: Akshaya Patra does not discriminate based on religion, and we have employees from all religious backgrounds. Here at Akshaya Patra, we have a strictly secular policy. Donors from all walks of life contribute to the cause. Akshaya Patra has broken all barriers of social inequity that have existed in schools. Social barriers were playing a major role in government schools, but now there are none. That is the reason we insist on employing the uniform in all schools. School is the right place for raising such issues as social equality. Social groups in schools no longer reflect socioeconomic classes.

Finally, I interviewed Mr. Vinay Kumar, the general manager of the foundation’s kitchen operations:

Question: What is the motivating factor behind your work with Akshaya Patra?
Answer: The fact that we are doing something for the future of India.

Question: How did you get started with Akshaya Patra?
Answer: I was working as a chartered accountant in some companies, and then moved from company to company. Eventually, I moved joined Akshaya Patra’s IT department to manage accounts and material accounting. I joined it to implement an IT department and then took on a new role in operations. Today marks my fifth year working with Akshaya Patra.

Question: What do you see in Akshaya Patra’s future?
Answer: More children, more kitchens, and elimination of malnutrition. We serve 1.5 million kids and we hope the economic status of the country improves. If there is no dropout because of hunger, we will say we have done our job.

Question: Do you feel as if the job is done?
Answer: Why, we have just begun-we need to see where the need is. We need to find rural areas, and see the beneficiaries getting into working life and eventually contribute as donors or employees. They benefitted from the program, and I am sure they would have the heart to give back.

Question: Has the dropout rate decreased?
Answer: A consulting international surveying organization has recorded a significant decrease of dropout rates and increase in attendance. We cannot accredit this statistical change completely to Akshaya Patra, but a large majority is due to the organisation’s work.

Question: Are Akshaya Patra and ISKCON two different entities?
Answer: Yes. They have registered as two different organisations. Akshaya Patra is a public program. This is truly a secular organisation. We feed convents and schools of all other religious denominations as well.

Question: What are the future plans of Akshaya Patra?
Answer: We plan to focus more on improving further, the quality of meals by using optimised resources available to us.

Question: Is Akshaya Patra known as a national initiative?
Answer: We expect the public in general to recognise Akshaya Patra as a national initiative. We grew from a small organization to a state organization to a national initiative. We need this to be looked at by the public as a revolution, the gap between the rich and poor needs to shorten. The problem of child hunger cannot persist for 50 years. We need to end child hunger.

I was amazed to see Akshaya Patra’s effect in countless schools. As I visited and helped serve food in these schools, I saw appreciation in the eyes of the students who have all been given hearty meals. These children run to the Akshaya Patra vans, which contain sambar, rice, and curds. The headmasters are always grateful to Akshaya Patra representatives who come and visit. They were more than happy to allow me the opportunity to speak to the students. Many children spoke to me about their ambitions of becoming doctors, engineers, and police inspectors. Akshaya Patra will ensure that their needs are met while they pursue these goals. If not for Akshaya Patra, most of these children would be forced into child labour to feed themselves. The Akshaya Patra Foundation will persevere, carrying unforgotten compassion to eventually ensure an end to child hunger in all of India.

More people need to recognize the tremendous good that Akshaya Patra has been able to achieve and that I have witnessed firsthand. Donating to Akshaya Patra directly facilitates the elimination of child hunger and the promotion of education, ensuring a brighter future for those students and a better world.

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The day I met reality beyond my own

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After discovering the Akshaya Patra Foundation through its website, I was amazed by all the organisation had accomplished and had to experience it for myself. My experience has been ethereal. I made a month-long trip to India to immerse myself in the driving force of the good that is Akshaya Patra. As I visited relatives and family friends throughout my stay, almost everyone I spoke to was familiar with the cause and recognised it as a national initiative. The family driver was especially enthusiastic about the organisation. Akshaya Patra has made a distinct impression on the students of his village allowing them to receive a quality education and healthy nourishment. As he told me the wide-reaching effects of the organisation, he manoeuvered through the circus of traffic that included cows, motorcycles oxen carts, and several tractors on our way to the Vaikuntha Hill kitchen.

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Finally, we reached the scintillating gates of the foundation with its characteristic blue signs. I chatted awhile with my good friend Mr. Arun Kumar, the manager of the Vakuntha Hill kitchen, who gestured at the ardent and passionate work of the kitchen to feed the children of over 600 schools in and around Bangalore area. A fleet of Akshaya Patra vans filled with sambar, rice, and curd whizzed past us as three other Akshaya Patra volunteers offered to accompany me on my journey to some of the Government Schools. We swerved through several back roads and highways until our car lay before a massive hill with a road that rose with its slope. We followed this slope as we admired the countryside. The trees were bright and alive with the reclusion of monsoons and the sky was as blue as ever. From a distance, I could distinguish a small brightly-painted school. Before I could fully behold its reality, I could hear the laughter ringing from the top of the hill.

I heard the excitement of children and urgent, excited voices that reflected the absolute purity of youth. When we finally arrived, the headmaster greeted us and thanked us for the work Akshaya Patra Foundation had accomplished in feeding this school. From the corner of my eye, I saw the familiar stainless steel canteens of rice and sambar that feed countless children throughout India. Before I was fully aware of it, I was ushered into a classroom where healthy and enthusiastic 1st and 2nd graders strained their voices in yelling, “Good morning, sir!” As I greeted them, smiling, I could not help but reflect that this energy would not be possible without the tireless labor of the employees and staff of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. With bright eyes, they barraged me with a slew of questions: “What is your father’s name?”, “What is your mother’s name?”, “Do you know President Obama?”, “How far do you live from the White House?”, “Are you a good cricket player?”, “Do you like India?”, etc. The friendly teacher gestured urgently to a seat at the front of the class. At first, I refused out of deference, but then reluctantly accepted the kind gesture. The children told me their stories, each one more inspiring than the last. They told me the tragedies of being orphaned and the adversity of achieving dreams dreamt by those who fall under the poverty line. Many of these students told me they wanted to be doctors, engineers, and police inspectors. Many of them shared in the same fire of spirit that I pride myself in. Born with a congenital genetic disability that resulted in cosmetic flaw and profound hearing loss, I was no stranger to absolute dedication and determination to goals. I recognised this same determination and dogged tenacity in the enthusiasm of these students who were unnecessarily and prematurely burdened with the weight of life’s struggles and challenges.

I find comfort that they no longer have to carry this burden alone, and that the conglomeration of public and private efforts through Akshaya Patra Foundation ensures for them a brighter future. My perspective towards these students was not “me” and “them,” but rather “us”. I realized that we are all children and inheritors of the same world, and that every person faces their individual struggles. There is no limit to their abilities, especially because of the food that Akshaya Patra provides daily. Just as I had mastered the piano despite my hearing disability, they will master their education despite their setbacks. They will rise past the challenges they face and become the new driving force for change, as I expect that they will have the heart to contribute to the organization that has allowed them to attain their goals. My favorite part of that eye-opening volunteer experience was the games we played. Few things allow me to forget time, but the carefree spirit and happiness of the students I played with allowed me to forget all else. I became entranced by the childlike sense of wonder and amazement that had manifested itself in this school. They grabbed at my legs, grinning ear to ear and unwilling to let go. Some of the younger and more vulnerable kids outstretched their arms for me to hoist them up on my shoulders high above the world. The human race is equal, despite the differences that society, language and status insist on enforcing. The Akshaya Patra Foundation has overcome these imposed social barriers by feeding all schoolchildren in need, regardless of social status or background.

I was then led into a less dense part of the considerably cramped school grounds. It was there that my heart broke and for the first time that I cried for someone rather than myself or my own loss. It was there that seven of the world’s most helpless toddlers sat without any connection to their parents. They smiled at me, begged for my attention, tossing a ball towards my direction. I instinctively tossed it back, smiling at them. They erupted in hysterical and excited laughter and I saw happiness in their eyes. But I knew that deep inside that they were sad from within. All children deprived of love struggle to survive emotionally. Their emotions turn from neediness to sadness. But I have the power to stop this cycle of abject loneliness. A simple donation from a life of comparative comfort and ease can forever change the face of these children’s future. And then it was time for me to leave, as a fellow Akshaya Patra volunteer called out for me. I constantly think about those children and all they will have to overcome. But I know they will always be well fed and given the opportunity of education, because The Akshaya Patra Foundation will persevere, carrying unforgotten compassion to eventually ensure an end to child hunger in all of India.

To know more about Varun Singh’s experience at the kitchen, click here

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Akshaya Patra on World Environment Day

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Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest School lunch Programme feeding 1.3 million children daily by using technology extensively. Akshaya Patra believes in making efficient use of energy in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner to feed children at such a large scale. It not only helps in utilising resources in a cost effective manner, but also supports in creating better ecological balance.

On World Environment Day, Akshaya Patra reaffirms its pledge of practising environment friendly methods. Akshaya Patra has already adopted such methods. Kitchens at Bellary and Bangalore have replaced gas stoves with Oorja stoves which use biomass pellets as fuel. The biomass smokeless stove has a chamber for burning briquettes, a mini-fan powered by rechargeable batteries and controlled by a regulator which blows air to fan the flames. This initiative has helped in minimizing fuel cost by 50%. The stove is largely used to prepare seasoning for sambar.

Akshaya-Patra-Kitchen-Bio-Gas-plantLED lights have also been installed in some of the kitchens. LED (Light Emitting Diodes) are solid light bulbs which are extremely energy efficient.

Recycling of water is done to make efficient use of water using Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP). In order to address concerns of hygiene, everything that is procured is thoroughly washed. This includes rice, vegetables and lentils. The water used for washing contains nutrients and is used for bio-culture. Waste water is also used for washing vehicles used to transport the food.

Recently, with an intention to employ renewable sources of energy, Akshaya Patra has decided to install Bio Oorja. Once fully operational, the biogas plant is expected to produce about 40-50 kg of biogas and will consume about 1000 kg of waste. Akshaya Patra has opted for ‘Bio Oorja’ – a waste management technology that uses modified biogas plant to produce biogas to be used in Oorja stoves.

Support Akshaya Patra to take more such initiatives in preparing mid-day meal to feed school children.

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Akshaya Patra’s Kitchen Goes Green

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Akshaya-Patra-Kitchen-Bio-Gas-plantEveryday 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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Akshaya Patra empowering rural women

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation implements the mid-day meal programme in more than 9000 Government schools across 19 locations of 9 states. Its operation is spread across urban, semi-urban and rural settings. Every day the Foundation serves mid-day meal to 1.3 million children across India. To keep up the stability and continuity of providing food to the needy children it employs two kinds of kitchen set up- Centralized kitchen and Decentralized kitchen. Centralized kitchens are technologically equipped and are feasible for urban and semi-urban setting whereas Decentralized kitchens act as a vein to intervene into the rural and remote locations like Baran and Nayagarh.

Akshaya-Patra-empowering-rural-women_1The Decentralized kitchens of Akshaya Patra employ local women as kitchen staff. The women self-help group are engaged in the entire kitchen process and earn a regular livelihood.  This has helped in empowering the rural women of Rajasthan and Odisha. Akshaya Patra provides mid-day meals to more than 14,000 children in over 150 Government schools in the district of Baran. Here are a few anecdotes of women employees of Akshaya Patra’s decentralized kitchen in Baran district of Rajasthan.

Prem Bai is a resident of Baansthuli village of Baran district in Rajasthan. Six years ago she got employed by Akshaya Patra as a cook in its decentralized kitchen at Baran. Today, she cooks food for more than 100 students. A mother of three children she says, “I studied until Class II when I was young. That’s all, but I always wanted to study more.” She goes on to say, “When I am done with cooking and distribution of meals, I sit near the class and learn what the teacher teaches. Back home I read my children’s books. Today I can read a newspaper without any difficult”.

Kanti Bai and Lalita Bai of the adjacent Rampuriya village, also earn their livelihood as employees of Akshaya Patra’s decentralized kitchen. They cook mid-day meal for the students of a nearby school. Kanti Bai adds that they also receive lessons from the Foundation on basic sanitation and hygiene. She says, “We now insist that children also wash hands before eating”.

In continuation, R. Govinda Dasa, Unit President, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Rajasthan said, “We have decentralized kitchens in the tribal regions of Odisha, Rajasthan and Mathura district where we employ women to cook the locally available food”.

Sourcehttp://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/stir-fry-earn/article4714944.ece

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And then we saw the smiles…

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The most beautiful part about the day was getting to meet the children. We went to the government high school in Basaveshwaranagar, Bangalore. When we arrived, the boys on the cricket team were hurrying to finish their hot lunch and go out to play. Off to the side I spotted the silver containers from Akshaya Patra. Suddenly, we heard the shrill ring from the bell that dismissed the kids for their lunch break.The kids ran with their plates and waited eagerly in line for fresh, hot Bisi Bele Bhaat and sweet. The headmaster allowed my sister and me to serve the fresh food to the students. After receiving hot food, the kids ran off to sit and chatted animatedly. Many returned quickly for seconds and happily received more food. Even when their break came to a close, many children still returned with boxes to take food home for later.

downloadI had the opportunity to talk to many children before they had to go to class. They shared their dreams and aspirations of becoming pilots, engineers, lawyers, and sportsmen. I was nervous because of my poor Kannada, but I was later relieved because these kids were very forgiving and they knew excellent English. Being from America, I did not know what to expect in India. However, these kids reminded me of my best friends when they laughed and crowded around to see what they looked like in pictures. It was like being among my friends in my own school.

download (1)We also had the opportunity to talk to two students for a longer duration of time. The first boy’s name was John. He told us how his mother is a tailor and his father is an auto driver. He told us that he aspires to be an engineer when he grows up. The second boy’s name was Pradeep. Pradeep explained to us how he had recently made the difficult jump from a private school to a government school due to the costly fees. However, Pradeep showed no downheartedness and explained how he had made new friends and was getting a hot meal every afternoon too. He shared his dreams of becoming a pilot or sportsman when he grows up and also asked us inquisitively about studying tips and what it is like in America.

download (2)If this entire experience has taught me anything, it is that anything is possible. The entire Akshaya Patra organisation was inspired by Srila Prabupad when he saw some children fighting with dogs for food. This one story of compassion led to this incredible organisation that is striving to feed five million children every day by 2020. These children who have their carefree childhood taken by the hardships of life are given a second chance with nutritious food and a good education. This organisation is one-hundred percent about helping these children live happily and have a good future, and I am proud to support this cause.

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Akshaya Patra harnessing the Internet for Social Good

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It’s the 20th Anniversary of the World Wide Web! It indeed marks a true milestone in the history of Internet. Alongside it also marks a celebration of the positive impact World Wide Web has made in the lives of innumerable humans. Internet is the most ubiquitous order of the day. It is the inexplicable extensive reach of the Internet that makes it increasingly significant in today’s fast-paced and knowledge-seeking generation.

Akshaya-Patra-world-wide-web-presenceThe Web has become a communication platform where a visitor can share opinions and engage in discussions on varied topics. Every organisation, despite its realm of work, feels the need to be present on the Internet and is competing for online space and presence. Web technologies are used to generate better business by increasing footprints of organisations in online space to achieve their core objectives. The Web also has the potential to spread awareness globally about various causes that different non-profits are working for.

We at The Akshaya Patra Foundation are putting an effort to harness the effectiveness of Internet technology to spread awareness about the cause we are working for. Akshaya Patra is an Indian NGO started in Bangalore, Karnataka in June 2000. Today, it implements the mid-day meal programme in Government schools across 9 states of India namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Currently, it provides mid-day meal to 1.3 million children covering over 9000 Government schools. The vision of the Foundation is “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”. It aims to feed 5 million children by 2020.

The vastness of its mission drives the Foundation to reach out to more and more people across the globe. It has a dedicated Akshaya Patra official website which makes available all the information related to the Foundation. Akshaya Patra also employs Social Networking as a medium to spread the word. It is present in six of the popular social networking platforms-FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedInPinterest and Google+. Apart from these Social Networking sites it is also present in many Social Book Marking sites. These platforms act as supporting mediums to the official website.  They become a quick spot for visitors to get updates on latest advancements, news, events and also to browse through photo and video galleries. It also provides an option to the visitor to share information about the Foundation ‘on the go’.

Interestingly, as you are reading, this article too has become a part of the Internet. The power of Internet lies in the hands of the user. If harnessed strategically it can yield results in a way that can change the world for the better. The increase of Akshaya Patra’s footprint in online space will prove to be of significant benefit to millions of needy children in the country. Make use of your social networking skills to support and encourage numerous children who dream to achieve big in life.

Be a part of Akshaya Patra’s Social Networking. Join us on

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Passion and Enthusiasm Spark- up the Volunteer Meet at Akshaya Patra

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Recently Akshaya Patra organized a Volunteer Meet for the participants who had registered online as volunteers. This meet was intended for the mutual introduction of the organization and the volunteers. While giving their brief introduction, the volunteers mentioned about what had motivated them to work for Akshaya Patra. Most of them were looking for an opportunity where they can use their time and skills for the benefit of the society specially children. Akshaya Patra’s cause of feeding the children for educating them impressed these participants a lot and made them to render their service as volunteers. They were from different backgrounds, professions and age groups having the zeal and enthusiasm to support Akshaya Patra’s cause of feeding the children in common.

Akshaya-Patra-Volunteer-Meet-2013-A range of offline and online opportunities were explained to the volunteers in detail.  They also shared their interest and skills through which they would like to volunteer their service. During the discussion, they came up with different ideas to support Akshaya Patra’s cause. Volunteers were divided in different groups matching their interest and available opportunities.
Some of them were interested in making online groups and forums for creating awareness about Akshaya Patra and raising funds. Some showed their interest and enthusiasm in collecting case studies. For others options like being cyber activist and consultant for various departments of Akshaya Patra were more suitable.
One of the participants Shyamala Murthy mentioned this Volunteer Meet as “a very informative and interactive session. I could see and feel the passion that you all have in feeding the children ”Akshaya Patra encourages enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and has various offline and online volunteer opportunities to choose from according to the interest of the people. If you are also looking for some opportunity to support Akshaya Patra, register with us.

 

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Importance of Akshaya Patra’s De-centralized Kitchens

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organization implementing the mid-day meal programme in more than 9000 Government schools across India. It aims to reach out to more schools across the country so that more children can be nourished with wholesome meal and education. Currently, it is providing food to 1.3 million children everyday across 19 locations in 9 states.

To ensure effective implementation of mid-day meal programme across all locations irrespective of odds like geographical terrain and road connectivity, Akshaya Patra employs two types of kitchen model- Centralized kitchen and Decentralized kitchen. Both the models have a significant role to play in the implementation of the mid-day meal programme. Centralized kitchens are appropriate for urban and semi-urban locations where construction of large kitchen infrastructures and road connectivity is not a difficulty. These kitchens are either mechanized or semi-mechanized. Centralized kitchen infrastructures have the capacity to cook for about 2 lakh children at one time, thereby one kitchen becoming a node for a group of schools. Akshaya Patra operates 17 centralized kitchens across 9 states.

On the other hand, there are remote locations like Baran and Nayagarh where setting up of hugeAkshaya-Patra-Decentralized-kitchen_0infrastructures poses a challenge. Hence, the decentralized kitchen model is applied here. In this model, cooking for a school takes place in an area close to the school itself so that transportation of cooked food is easy. Akshaya Patra identifies Self-Help Groups (SHG) mostly Women SHGs to carry out the cooking process. These groups are educated and trained to prepare the meals in a healthy and hygienic manner.

There is constant monitoring done by the operations team for the smooth running of the programme and also to ensure that the children are being provided with nutritious and wholesome meal. Regular feedbacks are also taken from school authorities, parents and children to maintain the quality of the programme.

The De-centralized kitchen model has enabled to provide mid-day meals to children even in remote areas. Akshaya Patra is currently feeding children in more than 500 Government schools by employing this kitchen model. This in turn has increased school enrolment and improved daily attendance too. It has also helped in academic performance of the children. De-centralized kitchens have created employment in these areas and thus play an important role in women empowerment too.

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Akshaya Patra Food Facilitates Good Health

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Akshaya-Patra-beneficiaries“A healthy mind resides in a healthy body.” As the quote rightly mentions, a healthy body is of prime importance for everyone in today’s world. The children are the future of every nation. Hence it is extremely necessary to provide education and nutrition. The Akshaya Patra Foundation works towards providing nutrition to the school children of India. The Foundation serves mid-day meals in 9 states and more than 9000 Government schools.

To suit the local taste, different menu is set for the North and South Indian locations. Both the menus ensure that the nutritional levels are maintained adequately. The nutritious meal comprises of dal, rice, roti and yogurt. Several vegetables such as sweet pumpkin, green beans, potato, lady’s finger, tomato, carrot, drum stick, etc. are added to thesambar and sabzi. The meal is rich in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and anti-oxidants, in essential amounts and as per Government norms. The food energizes the child’s body, thus improving the attention span and concentration level.

The mid-day meal helps in the overall development of the child. Akshaya Patra is making efforts towards feeding more and more children with the mission of reaching 5 million children by 2020.

 

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