Friday, May 27, 2022
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Addressing Classroom Hunger With Innovation - One Meal At A Time

The Akshaya Patra Foundation serves over 1.8 million school children across 14 states and 2 UTs of India with freshly cooked, nutritious tasty and safe mid-day meal every day. One of the key enablers in this is − technology.

Addressing Classroom Hunger With Innovation - One Meal At A Time
Addressing classroom hunger with innovation - one meal at time

Erasing the “im” from the word impossible, technology is making it possible, one innovation at a time. May 11th was observed as the National Technology Day and it has been a significant day to celebrate our innovators and scientists and be proud of their achievements. Technological developments seen today is a dream and an outcome of a million yesterdays and we, as a country take pride to have witnessed this exponential growth in the domain of technology. This is a result of sleepless nights driven by endless experiments, theories and sheer determination of researchers, scientists and engineers. ‘National Tech Day’ was first celebrated in 1999 when India succeeded in conducting three nuclear tests. 

Commemorating and celebrating these pioneers, today we see technology and innovation impacting so many sectors of people. Technology has not only upgraded the policies of education but also improved the food sector. If you’re wondering how the latter is influenced by the power and ways of tech, we’re talking about one of the esteemed non-profit organizations working for social welfare - Akshaya Patra and its largest school mid-day meal program in the world. “You cannot teach a hungry child,” says Shridhar Venkat- CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation serves over 1.8 million school children across 14 states and 2 UTs of India with freshly cooked, nutritious tasty and safe mid-day meal every day. One of the key enablers in this is − technology. Akshaya Patra applies technology, smart engineering, frugal innovation, and good management to grow its service delivery while keeping cost low. The hallmark of Akshaya Patra's programme is its centralised kitchen facilities which have been designed and engineered to optimise quality and minimise cost, time, and labour. Akshaya Patra has food-testing/quality labs, rice-sorting machines, insulated silos, solar-powered kitchens and cold storage options among others to help sustain, enhance and improve its programme. Akshaya Patra’s state-of-the-art kitchens can prepare 1,00,000 meals in less than five hours by utilising gravity flow mechanisms to minimise human handling of food, mechanised high-speed cutting of vegetables and conveyor belts for easy transportation. The kitchens have Large stainless-steel cauldrons with easy-tilt mechanisms preparing 1,200 litres of lentils in two hours and a customised roti-making machine which cooks up to 60,000 rotis (flat whole wheat bread) in an hour.

To integrate all aspects of its operations including production, distribution, maintenance, inventory management, and administration, the organisation utilises Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Akshaya Patra also employs Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to manage donations, seek potential donors, and drive and monitor the donation process. The foundation is continuously leveraging technology to cater to millions of children. Its kitchens have become a subject of study by leading institutions and attract curious visitors from around the world.
 
“COVID has been a dampener for livelihood and food security for vulnerable sectors of people. During this global pandemic, it was crucial to ensure that humanitarian efforts were running effectively, despite the challenges, to address the needs of vulnerable populations. One of these needs—and perhaps the most important is food. Therefore, food assistance became a crucial part of the overall relief efforts during the pandemic” says Shridhar Venkat - CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Akshaya Patra has always endeavoured to utilise its kitchen infrastructure to undertake emergency food assistance in the event of natural disasters to provide people food and nutrition support and ensure their health. Its direct role in service delivery helped ensure that food reached the most vulnerable and underserved sections of society in these times of adversity. It used its kitchen networks to prepare fresh, safe and hygienic cooked meals and delivered them to the food relief centres, hospitals and quarantine centres, slums, crematoriums, railway stations, etc.

“As of 30th April 2022, we have cumulatively served over 244 million meals in the form of cooked meals and various types of grocery kits to vulnerable populations in 80 locations across the country with the support of the Government and donors” He added.

Akshaya Patra also Partners with the Central Government, State Governments and UT administrations by enhancing the school feeding programme, thus contributing to development of the nation. “The support of the governments through provision of grants, subsidies, timely permissions etc. has been pivotal to the successful implementation of Akshaya Patra’s initiatives” says Shridhar Venkat
 
Technology is undoubtedly going to scale up our country but with a noble, innovative, keen, concerned aim like that of Akshaya Patra, it’s surely going to accelerate the progress
 

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