We serve 1.3 million children everyday with freshly cooked food as a secular, non-governmental organisation (NGO) helping children. That means employing hundreds of people throughout the country and empowering scores of women. At the corner stone of this colossal effort, spearheading the Foundation on its ambitious mission to serve 5 million children by 2020, is missionary zeal. Missionaries’ unending dedication has been instrumental in transforming Akshaya Patra from a small pilot program to one of the largest non-profits in the world, implementing one of the biggest school lunch programs in history.
Nandan Acharya Dasa, who oversees day to day operations of Akshaya Patra’s Mangalore kitchen, knows well the kind of dedication and effort employees put in to serve children. Before a cold storage unit was installed in the kitchen, he says, they used to stay up into late hours of the night cutting vegetables in an effort to keep them as fresh as possible before cooking.
“Because,” he says, “Mangalore weather is very humid. They would not remain fresh for long if they were cut and left outside. Freshness of produce affects taste. We have to make sure that the food is as tasty as possible. Children will make out the difference very soon.”
On a tour of the premises, he explains, how kitchen employees used to lift heavy, fully packed steel containers of food, carrying them from the kitchen to waiting food vans before they had a conveyor belt installed in the system.
A newly acquired rice cleaning machine has helped clean rice more efficiently and faster. Through all the challenges they have faced, however, they have kept one thing in mind, says Nandan Acharya Dasa – “The duty of serving hungry children is a very noble one, that’s what we always try to remember”.
*As of April 2011