5 Food Hygiene and Safety Principles Followed By Akshaya Patra

About Akshaya Patra

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a mid-day meal NGO in India headquartered in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The Foundation has been in the service of children since its inception in 2000. With a vision, “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”, the Foundation strives to provide freshly cooked, wholesome, and tasty meals to school going children. Currently, Akshaya Patra provides mid-day meals to more than 17-lakh children on each school day and it aims to feed 5 million children by 2020.

Food hygiene at Akshaya Patra

As they say, the greater the expanse of work, greater is the responsibility. And, it is evident in Akshaya Patra’s field of service. The Foundation makes use of the centralised kitchen concept to serve meals in urban and semi-urban areas, and the decentralised kitchen concept to provide meals in remote areas. Preparing and serving lakhs of meals every day is not an easy task and to serve hygienic and clean food requires utmost diligence and commitment. Thus, to ensure that children receive hygienic and safe food each time, this  NGO in India follows several measures during each stage of production – pre-production, production, and post production. Here are five principle hygiene and safety measures followed by each kitchen of Akshaya Patra irrespective of being centralised kitchen concept or decentralised model:

Quality assurance of raw materials: The Supplier Quality Management System incorporating factors such as Supplier Selection, Supplier Qualification, Supplier Rating etc. is adhered to at each kitchen to ensure procurement of the right and the best quality raw material. The raw materials are accepted only after thorough quality inspection to confirm it meets the Foundation’s raw material specifications that has been adapted from Food Safety and Standards Act 2006.

Storage and handling: Perishable raw materials like vegetables are either procured daily or stored in cold storage. Dry raw materials are stored in dedicated storage rooms. To ensure use of fresh raw materials, all the kitchens follow the FIFO (First In First Out) and FEFO (First Expiry First Out) methods while issuing raw materials for production.

Sanitisation: All raw materials are thoroughly washed and cleaned with potable water. The kitchen equipment and cleaned before and after use and are sterilised using steam.

Protective gears: All kitchen employees mandatorily follow hygiene practices like hand washing and sanitisation and make use of protective gears such as masks, gloves, boots etc.

Food packing and transportation: The cooked food is packed in insulated vessels and are transported to schools in customised insulated vehicles. The insulated vessels and vehicles retain temperature and ensure meals remain fresh till it is consumed by children.

With the reputation of being considered as the top NGO in India, Akshaya Patra is well-aware of its purpose and responsibility towards lakhs of children it feeds each day. Hence, it also undertakes various improvement processes to enhance its operations, efficiency, productivity, and certainly hygiene and safety.

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NGO in Telangana & Its Kitchen

According to the ‘Telangana Socio-Economic Outlook 2018’, there is a substantial discrepancy in literacy rate across the state. While Hyderabad fairs significantly with 83.2%, Jogulamba Gadwal district is struggling with 49.9% literacy rate. It has been reported that of the total 31 districts, 26 districts have literacy rates below the State average of 66.54%. In order to bring the low scoring districts at par with the high scoring districts, the government is putting in lot of efforts. In support of the government’s effort, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO in Hyderabad began its mid-day meal service in the state in 2008.

Purpose of mid-day meal programme

On 28 November 2001, the Supreme Court of India passed a mandate stating, “We direct the State Governments/Union Territories to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary School with a prepared mid-day meal.” Through this scheme it was intended to:

  • avoid classroom hunger
  • increase school enrolment
  • increase school attendance
  • improve socialisation among castes
  • address malnutrition
  • empower women through employment

Headquartered in Bengaluru, Karnataka, Akshaya Patra wanted to give these advantages of mid-day meal scheme to the children of India. Hence, after its inception in 2000, the NGO started expanding its reach across the country. The Foundation made its foray to Telangana by establishing its first kitchen in Hyderabad in 2008. Currently, this NGO is feeding a total of 91,675 children in 805 government schools across the state.

Akshaya Patra Kitchens in Telangana

mid day meal in Telangana

Beginning its journey in 2008, today Akshaya Patra is providing mid-day meal in Telangana from its three centralised kitchens located in Hyderabad, Narsingi, and Kothagudem. Recently, the Foundation inaugurated its fourth kitchen in Kandi and it is the NGO’s largest one-of-a-kind hi-tech mega kitchens. Equipped to feed 1-lakh children per day, this kitchen was built in partnership with the Infosys Foundation.

With a grant of INR 18.50 crore, Infosys Foundation funded the entire construction cost of this kitchen. Alike all Akshaya Patra kitchens, the Telangana kitchens strictly adhere to hygiene and cleanliness standards in all its kitchen processes too. To improve productivity and efficiency of operational processes, Kaizen, Continuous Improvement Projects and Six Sigma methodologies are a part of a Telangana’s kitchen operations.

The kitchens of Telangana feature all the aspects of centralised kitchens such as cauldrons, trolleys, rice chutes, grinding machines, RO plants, and the like. Each of the kitchens has dedicated customised delivery vehicles to transport cooked meals to all beneficiary schools. The NGO in Hyderabad makes use of biogas briquettes and solar power as form of fuel and energy to operate the kitchen.

Menu of Telangana kitchens

Akshaya Patra has designed its meal menu to suit the local taste so that children enjoy their meal to the utmost. In line with the same, some of the menu items served to children in Telangana are: rice, lemon rice, sambar (a mixed vegetable and lentil curry), sundal (a South Indian dish, a dry legume-lentil preparation spiced, tempered, along with fresh coconut), pappu (a type of South Indian lentil curry), tomato pappu, vegetable biryani (a popular rice dish), and vegetable korma (an Indian dish made with vegetables and yogurt)

Socio-developmental initiatives

Besides providing mid-day meal, the Hyderabad kitchen is also involved in various socio-developmental initiatives to ensure betterment of the beneficiaries and the society. Some of the initiatives are:

  • Conducting awareness programmes
  • Life skills programme
  • Scholarship programme
  • Anganwadi Feeding
  • Feeding expecting and lactating mothers

As a mid-day meal NGO, Akshaya Patra wants to multiply its reach so that many more children receive the advantages of mid-day meal scheme. For this, the NGO operates in a Public-Private Partnership model, and while it is receiving aid from government, it also requires support and involvement of the civil society. Partake in the Foundation’s endeavour of providing ‘unlimited food for education’. Choose to donate to charity by either contributing funds online, sponsoring a school for a year or by donating a meal delivery vehicle. Your one contribution can make a huge difference in a child’s life. And, did you know that you can feed a child for the entire year with just Rs. 950!

Quality food produced through Six-sigma methodology at Akshaya Patra

What makes Akshaya Patra’s Mid-Day Meal Programme (MDMP) world’s largest serving wholesome lunch? Is it the numbers? Over 1.6 million children. Or is it the demographic? 13,636 schools across 12 states in India. What truly makes MDMP, run by a non-profit organisation, large is that the meals served have become actual incentives for children in India to attend schools and achieve academic success. Children of all these government institutions don’t skip schools because of scrumptious lunch they get to relish.

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This large-scale impact, created with the help of charity donations, was made possible by streamlining a six-sigma methodology that goes into the cooking and serving of these meals every single day. The funds raised, for Mid-Day Meal Programme, help us fill over 1.6 million stomachs every day.

MDMP is like a high-scale project of a company 

Akshaya Patra functions like a private company by ensuring quality of production and delivery. The quality inspection, storage and preservation of raw materials follow the standards set by Food Safety Standards Act 2006 (FSSA); the rice is supplied by the Food Corporation of India (FCI); all the kitchens follow ‘First In, First Out’ and ‘First Expiry, First Out’ methods while using the raw materials for cooking. The vessels used for cooking are made of 304 grade stainless steel. Well-trained cooks and supervisors ensure quality control while cooking for these kitchens run by the top NGO that’s on a mission to feed the children.

Hope stories testify quality 

Children usually have the habit of skipping lunch, so engrossed they are in their games and sports. But beneficiaries of MDMP enthusiastically have their lunch every day and the prospect of a nutritious meal encourages them to come to school regularly. Several hope stories we came across over the years testify how MDMP has influenced the lives of the children positively.

Initiatives that draw accountability  

Akshaya Patra keeps a strict policy of transparency to maintain complete accountability of the quality of meals being served. The non-profit organisation often engages in several initiatives to involve the society so people are encouraged towards charity fundraising or donations for the cause of food and education. These events publicly involve the society and hold the non-profit organisation accountable for quality. 

Innovative kitchens that set benchmarks

When 100,000 meals are cooked in a single state-of-the-art centralised kitchen, repeated experiments can make it possible. So Akshaya Patra partnered with Innovation Alchemy for scaling up its kitchens without compromising on the quality. As a result, these centralised kitchens have become a subject of study and research. They have been featured on National Geographic channel’s India’s Mega Kitchens. You can read about them in the book God’s Own Kitchen.

Donors trust MDMP

 It’s the transparency of the MDMP scheme that makes prestigious companies and trusted brands often lend a helping hand in terms of charity donations and fundraising. In April 2017, SBI foundation donated a generous amount to the non-profit organisation and would be invested towards 1250 hot insulated vessels to keep food hot for 8-10 hours. The insulated hot boxes would be distributed amongst Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Nathdwara kitchens. Apart from organisations, Akshaya Patra allows individuals to contribute smaller amounts in sponsoring a child or in simply donating for the overall cause. Due to the generous charity donations and fundraising, Akshaya Patra is able to comply with quality and hygiene standards set every day in the Mid-Day Meal Programme.