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Feeding 12 lakh children every day – how Akshaya Patra runs the world’s largest kitchen

Shruthi Mohan
7th Jan 2018
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In a photo walk at the Akshaya Patra headquarters in Visakhapatnam, we capture the vibe inside the world’s largest kitchen.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of India passed a mandate that "cooked mid-day meal is to be provided in government and government-aided primary schools in all the states." Given its legacy of feeding millions of children with wholesome school lunch, the Akshay Patra Foundation was also called upon to share its experiences with the court.

Started in a temple in 2000 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, after he saw a group of children fighting with stray dogs over scraps of food, the organisation is world's largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme. Formed with the intent to fight hunger and malnutrition, it is now spread across 13,839 schools. Operating across 12 states in India, the Akshaya Patra Foundation feeds 1,675,008 children every day. 

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

In doing so, it has become Indian government’s biggest partner in its ambitious mid-day meal programme which aims to end classroom hunger, increase school enrolment, increase school attendance, improve socialisation among castes, address malnutrition, and empower women through employment. Spread across 34 kitchens, Akshaya Patra mid-day meal scheme is a result of successful partnerships with various state governments and generous supporters.


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In a conversation with Satya Gaura Chandra Dasa, President, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Hyderabad, and Niskinchana Bhaktadasa, President of the foundation at Visakhapatnam, we explore the kitchen that feeds 25,000 beneficiaries in Visakhapatnam. As a part of a feature from the 10th edition of Jagriti Yatra, we bring to you in frames an organisation that intends to feed 5 million children by 2020.

Satya Gaura Chandra Dasa, President, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Hyderabad, and Niskinchana Bhaktadasa, President of the foundation at Visakhapatnam

According to a 2001 report by World Bank, nearly half of India’s children — approximately 60 million — are underweight. About 45 percent are stunted (too short for their age), 20 percent are wasted (too thin for their height, indicating acute malnutrition), 75 percent are anaemic, and 57 percent are Vitamin A deficient.

 

Malnutrition affects children’s chances of survival, increases their susceptibility to illness, reduces their ability to learn, increases their chances of dropping out early from school, and makes them less productive in the later stages of life.

 

From its humble beginnings in the year 2000, serving just 1,500 children across five schools, today Akshaya Patra serves wholesome food to over 1.6 million children across 12 states in India.

 

The Visakhapatnam branch which serves 25,000 children every day, employees 250 individuals who manage the production and distribution of meals.

 

Karnataka was the first state in India to involve NGOs in development programmes. The achievements of these private-public partnerships have even influenced the Central Government, explains a Human Development Report 2005.

 

At the Visakhapatnam branch specifically, hi-tech gadgets are flown in from North India. The centre houses six boilers. At one go, these boilers can cook food for 500 children within half than hour.

 

A mobile food testing laboratory worth Rs 45 lakh, with food-testing equipment, has recently been gifted to the foundation by Divis Laboratory.

 

The state-of-the-art Akshaya Patra kitchen has now become a subject of study.

Editor's note: Team Yourstory is at the 10th edition of Jagriti Yatra. We will be bringing a series of daily updates from the 15-day long train journey that traverses 8,000 kilometres across the country.

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