NGO providing meals to kids to lower dropout rates
Akshay Patra Foundation’s kitchens provide nutritious meals to children in govt, civic schools; goal is to lower dropout rates
An NGO that runs 29 kitchens supplying mid-day meals to children in studying in 13,500 government schools across India is soon set to offer the service in the city.
Since June 15, the Bangalore-based Akshaya Patra Foundation has been sending meals for 5,000 children studying at 24 municipal schools in Thane. And plans are afoot to purchase a 1.5- acre plot of land for a kitchen to feed 50,000 schoolchildren at BMC-run schools in the city.
Akshaya Patra literally means “unlimited vessel”, and true to its name, the organisation aims to provide nutritious meals to malnourished schoolchildren, and ultimately help bring down the high dropout rate in government and municipal schools.
Seema F, 20, an MSc student at Mount Carmel, Bangalore, has been a recipient of Aksay Patra’s mid-day meals. “My father is a tailor and my mother had no income. We are three siblings and my brother discontinued studies after Std XI. We would come to school on an empty stomach on most days and were unable to concentrate on studying. We looked forward to the lunch bell at 12.45 pm; the hearty meal would give us energy till 4 pm. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we would even get dessert,” said Seema.
B S Saraswathi, 25, who is doing a Phd in Biotechnology from Bangalore University, also remembers the mid-day meals she got in school. “The food comes packed with solid nutrients. Many students who had discontinued their studies went back to school because these meals were a big motivation. It even relieved the burden of our parents, who were unable to provide us even with one square meal a day,” said Saraswathi.
“We plan to open a baby kitchen with the capacity to feed 50,000 students in Mumbai. But it is difficult to get land. Our recipes include peanut butter and are formulated by top chefs in India.
We add micronutrients and vitamins to rice flour, which is then processed in machines to pull out metals. There is a destoning machine to remove stones, and another machine to separate broken rice, which is then used to make idlis. We also have an automated roti machine that makes 3,500 chapattis in an hour in our two-storey kitchen in Thane,”said Vandana Tilak, president, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Maharashtra, and member of the US board of directors.
Care is taken to ensure that the food packed in the kitchens and sent to schools remains hot for up to three hours.
“We use insulated vessels, and the temperature of the food is checked before it reaches the transport vehicle, at 8.30 am. There’s a flurry of activity in the Thane kitchen at 5 am, and by 11am, the lunches reach 12 municipal schools situated along the same route. The temperature is maintained at 85 degrees C in the kitchen, and 65 degrees C once it reaches the schools. There are labs in every city to test the quality of the food,”