On one usual day, peeping out of a window in Mayapur, a village near Calcutta, his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Founder of ISKON) saw a group of children combating with street dogs over leftovers of food. After this upsetting incident, Swami Prabhupada promised to himself that no one within a 10-mile radius of their ISKCON center should remain hungry. This led to the establishment of Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) in 2000.
Since its establishment, Akshaya Patra has become a renowned organization which feeds approximately 1.3 million children in 26 locations across 11 states of India, in alliance with more than 10,000 government schools through its mid-day meal programme. Through this initiative, APF provides motivation and nourishment to students for pursuing education for a better future. To understand what motivates and backs Akshaya Patra to achieve such huge targets, take an insight:
- Find a bigger solution for a big problem
Around 45 million children are deprived of education in India due to poverty. These children typically end up doing menial jobs to feed their family. Without education they will always remain in poverty. Those who manage to attend the school stay on the breadline. This obstructs their learning process. It is a very crucial issue and Akshaya Patra has found a brilliant way out. They have created big and resourceful kitchens to serve as many people as possible. Their average kitchen is serving 50,000-100,000 children, while their biggest one in hubli serves 250,000 children.
- Efficiency is the key
Akshaya Patra has left no stone unturned to redefine the concept of a community kitchen. They have silos of rice and daal, tubes that move the food from one floor to the other, workers who stringently check the quality of the food and prepare reports. Everything is well-organized which enables them to serve larger groups of people. Rightly, efficiency is the key to their success: no other organization in the world produces hygienic and good quality food at such lower costs. A typical meal comprises of rice, sambar, dal, chapattis, and curd; complete nourishment that helps children to focus better for enhancing their performances.
- Behave like a company
Akshaya Patra is a fusion of two groups: ISKCON, a faith-based entity in India, having expertise in large scale cooking for devotees in its temples, and senior executives at Infosys together with other technology-based companies in India. In the beginning, they focused on manufacturing, innovation, supply chain and logistics to evaluate as much as possible. They always believed in the power of technology, and for that they built partnerships with renowned universities and technology companies to achieve supreme results.
- No quality vs. quantity debate
To become a big organization, it not only involves achieving big numbers, but also providing solutions with a larger perspective. Akshaya Patra doesn’t compromise on quality of its meals to achieve larger quantity. APF ensures that each process is completely sustainable. In place of gas stoves, eco-friendly Oorjastoves are used in their kitchens. They also follow stringent policies in terms of keeping the place clean for serving only the best food to children in schools.
- Dream big to achieve big
Akshaya Patra is an organization set up to grow. Apart from being cost efficient and professional, the organization must work to fulfill a long-term vision. APF believes that “No child in India shall remain deprived of education because of hunger,” and they are doing their utmost to make it achievable. At present, they are running the largest food distribution program in the world with an aim to distribute food to five million children by 2020. Considering their success so far, it is a dream that seems possible to achieve.