India with the largest democracy in the world is one of the major contributors of CO2 emissions, contributing to more than 7.5% of world’s carbon emission. To reduce the carbon emissions, it’s high time we adopt renewable energy sources of energy for all our needs right from domestic to industrial consumption of energy. In this direction, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has set an example by going eco-friendly way in their kitchens.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest NGO which is known for its mid-day meal programme running across the country in more than 10,000 schools reaching out to more than 1.3 million children everyday.
With the sole vision of “No child will be deprived of education because of hunger” they recently celebrated One Billion Meal, which served its billionth meal in Aug 2012. The kitchen in Hubli alone serves more than 185,000 meals everyday making it the largest kitchen in the world.
The Akshaya Patra team believes that it’s a very important step towards greener environment. And as an NGO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation depends largely on fundraising, so making their kitchens eco-friendly & more energy efficient and at the same time, making it cost efficient comes as an added advantage to help them reach out to more children & serve better.
The Akshaya Patra has replaced its gas stoves with Oorja stoves, which use biomass pellets as fuel. The 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.
These stoves use processed organic waste such as banana peel, groundnut shells & other waste wood. It is very cost-effective compared to the LPG cylinders, as the biomass pellets comes at a fraction of the cost.
Shridhar Venkat, Executive Director, says, “We are getting at least 20% cost benefit by using biomass pellets. Currently we are using this for staff cooking & exploring if we can do this at a large scale to implement even for mid-day meal programme”.
These stoves can efficiently help in preparing meals for at least 1,000 people at a time.
Shridhar Venkat shares that their mission is to feed 5 million children daily by 2020 & to achieve this, he says that it is necessary to blend professionalism of a corporate with the innovativeness and missionary zeal of an NGO to make a not-for-profit deliver value. He adds “We have started centralizing procurement & we also exploring contract farming & we are slowly moving towards sourcing directly from the source, farmer to the Kitchen”.
When asked about what keeps everyone at The Akshaya Patra Foundation inspired, Shridhar shared a story which is very close to his heart. He says “I keep telling this story to every new person I meet. I happened to meet this young boy, who happens to be the beneficiary of The Akshaya Patra a few years back. He has passed out & he was working. He was the son of a security guard, his father used to hardly earn Rs.1500 per month & he had four siblings. When he came to meet me, he came with a white envelope. He told me that his father was a temporary security guard. He said that he used to get 40% marks in class 8th & most of the times he used to faint during class, because food was not there at home. After Akshaya Patra came to school, his attention span went up, he was able to focus more on studies. He was able to study hard, play hard. In 10th he got 92% & got scholarship to study 11th & 12th, got 97% in PCM & went on to do B.Tech in Computer Science & this is the offer letter from the leading MNC. He said his father no more works, he takes care of him. That’s the power of a meal. Most of us take meals for granted. But there are many millions of children in this country who go to bed hungry. This boy was one of them & that’s the difference it made”.
Shridhar Venkat can be reached out on mail.