Food and Education

‘The duty of serving children is noble’


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

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Effluent Treatment Plant in Hubli


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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