I got a chance to visit Kudla’s Akshaya Patra kitchen near Urwa Market today. Prior to my visit, I had hardly thought about Akshaya Patra and the mid-day meal scheme although I had spotted their vehicles on the city roads many times. But today, I got the opportunity to actually see the insides of an Akshaya Patra kitchen and was touched when I heard that they serve hot, delicious, and nutritious mid-day meals to thousands of children studying in 138 schools across the district.
Akshaya Patra Foundation
The vision of the Akshaya Patra is as follows: “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.”
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organization with its head office in Bengaluru. Their aim is to fight malnutrition and hunger by implementing the mid-day meal scheme in government-aided and government schools. Through the noble task of serving delicious and hot meals to school children, Akshaya Patra hopes to encourage them to study more and realize their dreams. And the organization has been doing this ever since 2000.
They work in partnership with a number of state governments and the Government of India and receive the financial support of several philanthropic individuals and businesses. They started in 2000 by serving only 1500 children in five schools, but today, they have grown to be the world’s biggest non-profit mid-day meal program, serving delicious and nutritious food to more than 1.4 million children in 10,948 schools across 10 Indian states.
Akshaya Patra’s Mangaluru Kitchen
Akshaya Patra’s Mangaluru kitchen is located near Urwa Market and functions under the guidance of ISKCON. The swamijis in charge of the place are friendly and hospitable and willing to answer any question you might have.
When we reached the kitchen at around 7:45 a.m., the staff was just putting the finishing touches on the day’s mid-day meal and loading it into their vehicles. Interestingly, the meals are loaded into the vehicles only after a thorough quality check and special care is taken to make sure that the rice, rasam, sambar, and other dishes are at the correct temperature. The meals are packed in special containers to make sure that they are steaming hot when served to the school children.
An Akshaya Patra kitchen can impress anybody simply because of the high standards of quality they maintain and the technology they implement to cook delicious, nutritious, and hot meals to children. The kitchen in Kudla is state-of-the-art as it has all the best machines, ranging from rice cleaning machines to enormous cookers to conveyer belts that carry containers of food to waiting vans. This is because Akshaya Patra is continuously leveraging the latest technology so that it can prepare meals for millions of school children. In fact, Akshaya Patra kitchens have attracted international attention and people are continuously visiting them just to have a look.
Excellent Kitchen Standards
As I stood in the kitchen, watching the steam rising from the hot rice, I couldn’t help admiring the Akshaya Patra for keeping everything so neat and clean and maintaining the best kitchen standards.
The kitchen staff and visitors to the kitchen have to wear caps to prevent hair from falling into the food. Kitchen workers wear clean uniforms, masks, gloves, and gumboots to prevent contamination of food. They also disinfect their hands to reduce the number of transient pathogens.
Akshaya Patra accepts raw materials only after thoroughly checking them for quality according to the specifications of the Food Safety Standards Act (FSSA). They follow the First-in-first-out (FIFO) and First-expiry-first-out (FEFO) policies. Rice obtained from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is thoroughly cleaned in a rice cleaning machine. Raw materials are manually cleaned before use.
The fresh vegetables are sorted and the damaged ones removed. They are sanitized with chlorine water before cutting.
All trolleys, cauldrons, rice chutes, and sambar/dal tanks are sanitized with hot water before cooking. Raw materials are added as per custom-made recipes. The temperature of food is checked and recorded at periodic intervals. Manual handling of food is kept to a minimum to avoid contamination.
The cooked food is packed in steam-sterilized vessels made of 304 grade stainless steel or food grade plastic. The texture and taste of food is checked batch wise before it leaves the kitchen.
The body of each Akshaya Patra van is insulated with thermocol to maintain a specific temperature within. The vehicles are washed everyday with pressure jet and checked for cleanliness before loading. The interior of each van bears stainless steel racks to hold big, medium, and small containers in different rows and to prevent spilling of food. The temperature of the food is checked before as well as after delivery.
I was told that the mid-day meals for the day are cooked by 9:00 a.m. They reach various schools across Mangaluru by 11:00 a.m. Fresh vegetables arrive everyday by 9:00 a.m. They are cut on the same day and kept in the cold storage to be used in the next day’s meals. Akshaya Patra also takes care to see that their menus are interesting and exciting for children.
You can listen to a child talk about the menu in this video.
The Government of India and the state government works in partnership with the Akshaya Patra, but the organization still needs financial assistance from philanthropic individuals to produce and supply free meals to millions of school children. If ever you feel like donating to the cause or just visiting the Akshaya Patra in Mangaluru, you can get in touch with ISKCON.
- Call Sanandana Das (+91-99808-30108)
- Visit ISKCON, Arya Samaj Road, Balmatta, Mangaluru 575003
- Call the landline number +91-824-2410722
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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