Akshaya Patra: Mid-day Meal Program for Children

Akshaya Patra LOGO 2


Akshaya Patra is the largest mid-day meal program on the planet – feeding 1.3 million children a hot lunch at school everyday.

Close to 8.1 million underprivileged children in India are out of school and into child labour in order to earn a single meal in a day. (Source:www.worldbank.org.in). The surest way to break out of the cycle of poverty is through education. Education can significantly improve the quality of life of a family for generations to come. When the basic needs of a child, such as food are not met, education often becomes the last priority.

Akshaya Patra is helping underprivileged children by providing them with a healthy, balanced meal that they would otherwise have to work for. The meal is an incentive for them to continue their education. It helps reduce the dropout rate to an enormous extent and increases classroom attendance.

Akshaya Patra raises funds from donors, and receives aid from government departments to set up massive kitchens to cook and transport meals at capacity every afternoon. It is a registered non-profit organization.

The kitchens: http://www.akshayapatra.org/kitchen-process
Stories from the children: http://www.akshayapatra.org/stories-children
Akshaya Patra’s reach all over India (map): http://www.akshayapatra.org/our-reach
Akshaya Patra’s Quality Process document


1. Fundraising

A food-guardian for every child

Our cause of ‘unlimited food for education’ strikes a chord with almost everyone who comes across our work. There are many people who are well meaning, conscientious and willing to donate. Yet, we are not able to create momentum by which people, both Indian citizens and the diaspora can take ownership of a child’s future. Currently, Individual contributions constitute only about 15% to 20% of the total income.

Can we reverse this trend?  This way, we can decrease the risk and broaden the base of our income sources and also reduce our reliance on a few high net-worth individuals and corporations. In other words, how do we go from relying on a few corporate sponsors to crowd-funding our day-to-day working.

Could there be an online strategy that could match a donor with a child? Can we convince 1.3 million willing donors to donate towards at least one child’s mid-day meals for a year? Can we get them to renew their support every year?

2. Quantitative evaluation of the mid-day meal program

The six primary objectives set forth by the government for the mid-day meal program are increased enrollment, attendance and concentration in classroom, addressing malnutrition, improved socialisation among communities and empowered women. Overall trends show that the program is effective in achieving the above listed objectives. However, there is a need to develop mechanisms to measure and analyse performance more quantitatively.

Can we have a data acquisition and monitoring system to gauge the precise impact of the mid-day meal scheme on primary school enrolment and retention? And use our learning to improve the service delivery?

3. Information Aggregation and Dissemination System

Akshaya Patra is a part of a public-private partnership that has several stakeholders with various data and information requirements. Internally, Operations and Management needs information for day to day functioning and overall governance. Externally, the government, donors and other stakeholders expect us to publish updates, facts and figures and other data points required to successfully run the programme.

However, there is no integrated, digital solution for this at the present time.

Can we think of an online library and an Information Aggregation and Dissemination Centre? This mechanism should gather relevant information from multiple sources to provide convenience and add value by analysing the aggregated information for specific objectives of the organization. This solution should enable management of location specific information, newsletters, photos, reports along with multi-media management. It can also act as Periodical Information storage. This will reduce the cycle time for fetching information.

4. Increasing  Transparency

While Akshaya Patra has an elaborate system to account for grains and cash received from the government as subsidies, it is manual and laborious. Also, information dissemination happens through physical records.

There needs to be transparency of fund allocation for the mid-day meal programme for both its public and private counterparts. Can we create a grain and cash grant accounting system to be set up online? This could show how much of the government subsidized resources have been dispensed.

Additionally, can we provide a platform to declare financials and disclosure areas with access given to all stakeholders that can be updated by Akshaya Patra, other NGOs and the Government?

5. Cost and Operational Efficiency

While delivering the best quality meal that the children deserve, Akshaya Patra has to also focus on minimizing costs. The rising food and manpower costs, the inaccessibility of schools and their distances from the kitchen, road connectivity and traffic conditions amplify the problem.

Delivery and route optimization

Locating the shortest, most fuel efficient path for our multi-stop route, yet consider traffic and road conditions to positively enhance our delivery schedule and increase efficiency.

Daily food requirement

To ensure operational efficiency, each kitchen should prepare meals in exact quantities every day to prevent either shortage or wastage. This is currently done by collecting the approximate attendance estimates from teachers by the delivery staff. They also take feedback on the previous day’s quantities. However, the entire process is manual, time consuming and tedious. Teachers have no access to any mechanism to know how much food is required for consumption. Can we create a solution to calculate and predict cooking quantities?

Possibly useful tool: http://www.ushahidi.com/

Additional Challenges

1. Food Safety and Quality Assurance

Our foremost concern is to provide fresh, nutritious food by maintaining the highest level of quality and hygiene.  The service delivery starts from the kitchen and ends at the school where kids consume the meal.

While we have set up relatively strong quality assurance processes, the current methods for measuring and monitoring the critical processes (such as temperature, etc) are manual and operator dependent.  Also, monitoring of these parameters become more difficult after the food containers are delivered to the schools.

Is there a low cost Data Logging and Acquisition solution that can track the critical control parameters during the entire ‘Cook to Consumption cycle’? Can this be used in semi-urban and rural areas of India?

Can we design our measurement and monitoring systems to prevent glitches?

2. Operations Efficiency Measurement, Monitoring and Benchmarking

The overall efficiency of a kitchen location depends on indices like throughput yield, cost of meal, overhead expense control, etc. Can there be a system to create a predictive dashboard to incorporate benchmark process parameters of one kitchen facility across other locations?

Then, we can find ways to standardise resource allocation across locations, where the most optimal workforce in a facility still generates a high level of productivity, across all locations.

3. Recipe simulator

We would like to use substitute ingredients during periods of high food inflation without compromising the taste or the nutritional requirements of a meal. Can we create a recipe simulator to generate and manage recipes with available ingredients that meet the dietary requirements for a child and be cost effective as well?


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