In the News:
Nobody Goes Hungry
Posted November 21, 2009
BANGALORE — When ISKCON sent an e-mail to donors abroad, seeking donations for their successful Akshaya Patra, with details of how many children the scheme was feeding every day, they are supposed to have received a reply, asking to reconfirm the one-million number — it could not be that high, was the doubt. The missionaries who pioneered the model and made it the success it is, had to reaffirm that indeed, they were feeding over a million children, every single day.
At last count, Akshaya Patra was feeding 1,186,206 children all over the country, apart from senior citizens, expectant and nursing mothers, and jail inmates in Bangalore. Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice-chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation, tells the Times of India that they have been getting invitations to start a kitchen from countries like Kenya, Cambodia, Indonesia, Uganda and others. "But the first priority is India, and to fulfil invitations from within the country," he says.
The project, which started with five schools nine years ago, has today become a Harvard Business School study, received appreciation from U.S. President Barack Obama, and is going the corporate way with business transformation exercises.
Besides adopting mechanization and best practises for standardization, the Foundation is planning a process audit of its kitchens. Talks are also on with a food certification company to do a hygiene audit of its kitchens all over the country, every month. A social audit by donors and staff of the temple is also being planned, starting soon.
Also, Dasa said talks were on to instal GPS systems in each of their 275 vehicles to monitor the distribution of food. Expansion plans are also on in Rajasthan and a new kitchen in Guwahati by January 2010, starting with 50,000 kids. Opening a decentralized kitchen in Anand, Gujarat, where women from nearby villages would be involved in the cooking process, is also in the early planning stages.
Bangalore has a second-generation kitchen in Vasantha Vallabha Nagar, off Kanakapura Road, highly mechanized and capable of producing food for over a hundred thousand children, jail inmates and senior citizens. Dasa said a third-generation kitchen with a spiral conveyor is also being designed.
The Akshaya Patra programme is today partly working under state government funding. The government gives the foundation Rs 1.80 per child in Class 1-7 and Rs 2.20 per child in Class 8-10. The Brihat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) contributes Rs 4.50 per child for children in its schools. Donations from the Bangalore temple alone support six kitchens across the country. The programme aims to feed 5 million children by 2020.
A VISIT TO THE FOOD FACTORY
In the dead of the night, a group of 250 people walk into a factory and begin a process that will take them many hours of hard labour. Cleaning, sterilizing, lifting heavy things, mixing, pouring, transporting — cooking here is nothing short of industrial work. At the Vasanth Vallabha Nagar kitchen of Akshaya Patra Foundation, the process of cooking for over a hundred thousand children and other beneficiaries begins by 3 a.m. Preparations begin much earlier.
The process of cooking in the gravity-flow kitchen works like a business flowchart in itself. The silos full of tons of rice and dal are on the top floor. Rice is cleaned in the hoppers. It flows down to the pre-production level where it is washed and to the next floor where production takes place. The rice falls down into boxes for packing in the next level.
There are silos for rice; huge cold rooms to store cut vegetables; and a downward system, from boiling the rice to mixing vegetables in the sambar. A sambar channel flows the curry into boxes. The seasoning pan alone is large enough to make food for a small party.
There are 21 vehicles that transport the food over a 60-km radius. The tracking system is akin to Mumbai's famed dabbawallas — the staff can track every batch, every tin of food that is packed.
After the food is despatched, the staff does not rest too easy. Soon, the empty vessels will come in. Cleaning has to be done, cutting; the process starts again.
Reposted from the Times of India.