OUR WORK IN INDIA

Learn more about the world’s largest mid-day school meals programme.

2.1 MILLION CHILDREN,
70+ KITCHENS, 24K SCHOOLS

Akshaya Patra has the distinction of operating the largest single-country mid-day school meals scheme in the world. Our nationwide programme, delivered in close collaboration with the central and state governments of India as part of PM Poshan, is now providing more than 2 million children with hot, healthy and nutritious meals in their place of education.

Since serving our first meals at just five schools in Bengaluru in 2000, from our inaugural kitchen at Hare Krishna Hill, we have – thanks to the extraordinary kindness and generosity of our supporters – experienced incredible growth in our mission. We now operate more than 70 high-capacity kitchens in 18 states or union territories across India and serve in more than 24,000 schools.

One of the great joys of having done this work for more than two decades now is seeing how much our school feeding programme has sustainably improved the lives of countless children. Akshaya Patra alumni, having relied upon our meals in school, are growing up to be well nourished and better educated adults, who are playing their part in ensuring their families and communities can flourish and thrive – free from the horrors of poverty and hunger.

The Indian Paradox

India, which is still home to the world’s largest food insecure population, presents a major paradox. The country plays an increasingly significant role on the global stage and has enjoyed decades of economic development, with progress powered by and contributing towards a growing middle class.

However, while one section of the Indian population has seen progress and prosperity become a reality, deep poverty and food insecurity persists in the lives of a great number of people. India is home to a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide, still has millions of children who are out of school because of poverty, and has a high number of children who do not complete a full cycle of even primary education.

Over the next decade, there exists a particular opportunity in a fast-changing and economically buoyant India, among all the developing countries in the world, to lift a huge number of children and their families out of poverty. Holding fast to our firm conviction that no child should be deprived of education because of poverty and hunger, Akshaya Patra intends to play its important part in realising this ambition for India’s children.

Innovative and efficient kitchens

Our centralised, high-capacity kitchens are designed and managed to the highest food safety and quality benchmarks, with an increasing number certified by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). We invest in technology and engineering – and nurture an environment of continuous process analysis and improvement – to ensure that Akshaya Patra’s network of kitchens is always meeting a gold standard in safety, scalability, cost efficiency and meal productivity. Our emphasis on efficiency, focus on creating economies of scale, and commitment to good stewardship means it costs just £15 to feed an Indian child for an entire year.

One example of our commitment to engineering innovation is that we have meticulously designed several of our facilities to be multi-storey ‘vertical kitchens’, which take advantage of the law of gravity to reduce the handling of heavy loads and speed up the process of preparing our hot and fresh meals. A typical gravity kitchen has grain silos on the roof; a washing and vegetable preparation station on the next floor down; steam-powered, hydraulically-tilting cooking pots and tanks on the floor below that; and a packing and distribution area thereafter on the ground level.

Our high-quality ingredients, starting with rice and pulses on the roof, move gradually down through chutes in the floor to each kitchen level – being lovingly tended by our well-trained staff cooks each step of the way – until our delicious, standardised recipes are ready to be packed into special sterilised steel vessels and loaded on to our school-bound Akshaya Patra vehicles.

HIGH NUTRITION, HIGH IMPACT

The Akshaya Patra mid-day meal menu is tailored to local tastes, so that we may be serving sukhdi in Gujarat, dalma in Odisha and bisibelebath in Karnataka, or focusing more on providing rice in the southern states of India and chapati in the north. But whether it’s biryani, khichdi, sambar, sabji, daal, kheer, roti or rice that’s on today’s menu, our meals are designed to provide hungry and growing children with generous portions and adequate quantities of micronutrients. This means 450 calories and 12 grams of protein for lower primary students, and 700 calories and 20 grams of protein for upper primary students.

Research on the impact of our work shows that Akshaya Patra’s school meals programme increases enrolment and attendance; reduces classroom hunger and drop-out rates; improves nutrition and concentration in the classroom; especially empowers girls to go to school; and encourages socialisation of children from different backgrounds.