A visit to Akshaya Patra Foundation

IEEE IAS DAIICT Student Branch Chapter organized a visit to the Akshaya Patra Foundation on 27th October 2018. It is a non-profit organization in India that runs the school lunch programme across India. Akshaya Patra was established in 2000. It has its kitchens in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and many places in India. It has its largest kitchen in Bangalore and the second largest in Ahmedabad. Due to the incapability of accommodating more students at a time in the kitchen area, only 10 students were invited for the visit.

The kitchen starts functioning from around 5.30 am every day. With an aim to learn about the automatic cooking process of mass production, we reached there around 5.30 am. We were warmly welcomed by the officials of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. They gave us brief information about their organization, their aim and how they have been constantly striving to achieve it. The tour was about to start before which we were given shoe and hair covers to wear before entering the area.

The kitchen is structured in such a way to exploit the force of gravity. It has 3 floors. On the top floor the rice, dal, and vegetables are washed and then through a channel, it is passed to the second floor where they are cooked in huge capacity drums. All the spices used in the cooking vegetables and dal is also poured from above.

Rice being cooked one floor below

All the machines and vessels that they use are designed and manufactured in India. On the second floor, they also have the machine to make idlis for breakfast and a bakery where they bake biscuits, cookies, and cupcakes for the children. None of the items baked is made using white flour but only wheat flour in order to maintain the nutrients. The production rate is pretty good and appreciable. From the second floor, the cooked rice, dal and vegetables would come to the ground floor through the channels. They have very aptly made use of technology in the right spirit.

On the ground floor, rice and dal would finally be ready and would be filled in the packaging containers. Now was the turn to learn about roti making machine. It was truly fascinating. The machine has the capacity to make 40,000 rotis in an hour. That was unbelievable. They own a flour kneading machine from which the kneaded flour is transferred to a machine after which it is pressed and a sheet of the flour is made. It is followed by making circular cuts for rotis and then the sheet is passed over the flame to roast. The rotis are then roasted on the other surface. Finally, it is sprayed with oil and collected.

Flour kneading machine; rotis on the conveyor belt

The food items which are ready are then packed in containers and then transferred to trucks for dispatch. The temperature of the food is maintained such that the children can have it at around 62-degree Celsius. The whole kitchen was very clean and well managed with sufficient workforce. Also, the nutrition value of the food is strictly taken care of. All the necessary ingredients are used sufficiently in order to provide a balanced diet. The whole process was explained very nicely by the officials who also offered us some biscuits form their bakery.

As students from the technical field, it was an incredible experience to watch a simple process like cooking being carried out in such an inconceivably massive scale with full automation. They have truly exploited the boons of technology for such a noble cause. Following the kitchen tour, we got a chance to explore the huge campus early during sunrise. It was a great experience visiting the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Everyone was grateful for this opportunity to know how the world’s largest NGO-Run Mid-Day Meal programme is carried out.