Addressing Classroom Hunger With Innovation

Erasing the “im” from the word impossible, technology is making it possible, one innovation at a time. May 11th observed 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 are a dream and a result, a country taking pride in having 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 respected non-profit organizations working for social welfare – Akshaya Patra and its largest school mid-day meal program in the world . “You can’t 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 program is its centralized kitchen facilities which have been designed and engineered to optimize quality and minimize cost, time, and labor. Akshaya Patra has food-testing / quality laboratories, rice-sorting machines, insulated silos, solar-powered kitchens and cold storage options among others to help sustain, enhance and improve its program. Akshaya Patra’s state-of-the-art kitchens can prepare 1,00,000 meals in less than five hours by using mechanical and high-speed cutting equipment for vegetables and conveyor belts for easy transportation. The kitchens have Large stainless-steel cauldrons with easy-tilt mechanisms preparing 1,200 liters of lentils in two hours and a customized roti-making machine that cooks up to 60,000 rotis (flat whole wheat bread) per hour.

To integrate all aspects of its operations including production, distribution, maintenance, inventory management, and administration, the organization utilizes 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 the subject of study by leading institutions and attracting 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 is vital to ensure that humanitarian efforts are running effectively, despite the challenges, to address the needs of vulnerable populations. One of these needs — and perhaps the most important is food. Therefore, says Shridhar Venkat – CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Akshaya Patra has always endeavored to use his kitchen infrastructure to provide emergency food assistance in the event of natural disasters to provide food and nutrition support and ensure their health. Its direct role in service delivery has helped to ensure that food reaches the most vulnerable and understandable sections of society in these times of adversity. It uses its kitchen networks to prepare fresh, safe and hygienic cooked meals and supplies to the food relief centers, hospitals and quarantine centers, 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 groceries in the country.

Akshaya Patra is also contributing to the development of the nation. “The support of the governing body through 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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