Not many things bring me out of bed at 5am. But when I heard about the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s operations, I just had to check it out for myself. So on a rainy August morning, two colleagues and myself headed to their centralized kitchen in Bangalore.
The organisation runs its operations through two kitchen models: Centralized Kitchens, which are suitable for urban and semi-urban locations, are mostly mechanized and employ innovative technology to cook meals for thousands of children within few hours. Decentralized Kitchens are set-up in areas that are not easily accessible and employ women of that particular area for the cooking process.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation came into being in the year 2000. A one-man initiative, it started with feeding 1,500 school children in Bangalore and has expanded to feeding over 1.3 million children over 14 years.
That one man whose initiative it was to feed 1,500 children was Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa. Born in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu,went on to do his B.Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT-Mumbai in the year 1980. When here, he came across books of Srila Prabupada and got inspired to practice Krishna Consciousness. In 1983, he became involved in overseeing the activities of ISKCON, Bangalore and was also responsible for the activities of the Trivandrum temple as president.
If you spend a day at GLPS Vaderahalli, you would believe it to be like any other school. One wouldn’t know, if not told, that out of the 95 students enrolled here, 45 are living with HIV/AIDS. These children are orphaned, having lost their parents to the disease, and are cared for by a charitable trust which has them residing in a hostel close to the school.
While supporting Akshaya Patra’s cooking operations sounds like fun, it isn’t an opportunity that adds much value to them; given that they already have machines doing a more efficient and hygienic job of the same. Infact, having volunteers help at the kitchen is quite stressful for their staff as they then need to ensure that the ISO standards of hygiene and cleanliness that the kitchen’s staff are familiar with, are being followed by the volunteers too. Further, their six-sigma processes ensure that food reaches over 1 lakh children on time every school day; any interference can in fact lead to delays in the same