Akshaya Patra Aims To Feed 1.6M Children In Gujarat By 2014
44.7% of children are underweight and 22.3% of the population is undernourished in the state of Gujarat according to the India State Hunger Index developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, 2008). Reacting to the severity of these statistics, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has made it a goal to serve mid day meals to 1.6 million children in the state by 2014. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a public-private partnership and one of the world’s largest NGO -run mid-day meal programs, simultaneously addresses the twin challenges of childhood hunger and malnutrition and lack of access to education for underserved children in India.
Currently, Akshaya Patra serves over 1.3 million children DAILY in government run schools a freshly prepared, nutritious mid-day meal. In Gujarat alone, over 370,000 children are served out of kitchens located in Surat, Vadodara, and Gandhinagar. To attain the ambitious goal of serving 1.6 million children in Gujurat, the organization has plans to build 13 additional, technology intensive, centralized kitchens, the hallmark of the organizations program. The next kitchen slated for construction is in Ahmedabad and will have the capacity to serve 150,000 school children. Akshaya Patra centralized kitchens leverage innovative technology to increase efficiency, lower costs and maintain high standards of quality to deliver freshly prepared mid- day meals.
The program in Gujarat was first started in 2007 as a temporary centralized kitchen facility in a modified industrial shed in Gandhinagar. At this time the areas covered were AMC, Gandhinagar, Kalol, Manasa & Daskroi. Initially just 51,000 children were being served. Today, 130,000 children are fed a meal catered to their appetite in 529 schools in Gandhinagar. For many children this is their only complete meal of the day.
In 2009, in efforts to expand the reach to more children and schools, a second Gujarat kitchen was constructed in Vadodara sponsored by three PSUs; GACL, GSFC & GIPCL. This kitchen serves 135,000 children in 619 schools, employs 260 individuals and also services the Anganwadi centers of VMSS. Most recently, in June 2012, Akshaya Patra began operations in Surat. A temporary kitchen facility has been set up at Magob of Surat city with the capacity of feeding 50,000 children daily. The permanent kitchen will be ready by July 2013 and will feed 150,000 children out of 348 schools.
Some key features of the Gujarat kitchens include steam as a cost-effective and clean cooking medium that helps accelerate the cooking process and retain nutrients and innovative chapatti making machines that each prepare 40,000 chapattis in an hour. The largest kitchens can prepare 185,000 meals in under 5 hours. Most processes—from cutting vegetables, preparing bread, to loading containers—are mechanized, which increases speed, decreases overhead, and protects against contamination.
The planned Ahmedabad kitchen will be one of the most innovative Akshaya Patra kitchens yet. The kitchen will be located in Badaj Village, 4 km from Science City. It will be the first of its kind to make use of a gravity flow roti section and a masala prep unit which premixes masala spice to ensure the freshest food is provided to the children. As part of the masala prep unit, Akshaya Patra has mapped the location, season and prices where best to source spices such as turmeric (Rajasthan) and chilis (UP) to ensure freshness and save on cost.
Environmentally friendly initiatives are being put in place to make the Ahmedabad kitchen Akshaya Patra’s “greenest” kitchen to date. These initiatives include solar heating panels to pre-heat water used in the steam boiler to 35-40 degrees hotter than water that has not been preheated and a bio-gas plant to convert organic waste (vegetable peelings, leftover food) into fuel. To ensure seamless coordination and smooth operations in all the Gujarat units, a Regional Head Quarter and Training Institute will be set up in Ahmedabad. At present land is available to begin construction and the organization is seeking funding to complete the project.
Madhu Sridhar, President and CEO of Akshaya Patra USA remarked, “Education is the single most powerful tool to lift a family out of poverty. The Akshaya Patra meals serve as an incentive for children to come to school, stay in school, and gain the necessary nutrients t focus on learning."
Akshaya Patra USA is actively raising support for the Ahmedabad kitchen. If you would like to support the construction of the Ahmedabad kitchen please visit www.foodforeducation.org/our-kitchens/gujarat-gandhinagar-ahmedabad and donate online from this page. If you would like to make a donation by check please make it out to “The Akshaya Patra Foundation, write Gujarat in the memo line and send to the follow address: Akshaya Patra Foundation, 92 Montvale Ave., Stoneham MA 02180.
In addition to Gujarat, Akshaya Patra operates in 8 other states throughout India; Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu. For more information about Akshaya Patra’s locations or to learn more about the organization please visit www.foodforeducation.org.
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