Akshaya Patra

Bengaluru: Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides meals to school students across 10 states under the midday meal programme, is expanding to provide lunch to corporate and industrial units that employ hundreds of workers.

The foundation has already run successful pilots, serving freshly-cooked meals to workers at construction sites of real-estate major DLF, infrastructure-major Larsen & Toubro and Janta Meals, the food chain for the urban poor in Delhi. The pilot was funded by a grant from the Tata Trust.

"In many construction sites or garment factories that don't have canteens, workers struggle to get decent food at affordable prices," said Shridhar Venkat, chief executive officer, Akshaya Patra Foundation.

The foundation works with local governments across 10 states to deliver freshly-cooked meals to about 1,413,000 children in 10,770 schools or 300 million meals a year. In north India, it has roti-making machines which roll out 40,000 rotis an hour.

The pilot for businesses, which ran over eight to 10 months, has helped in addressing the critical challenge of providing quality food for workers at firms such as DLF.

"Food is still being provided to labourers; it is nutritious and they like it," said Lieutenant-General Rajender Singh, chief executive, DLF Foundation.

Akshaya Patra also supplies food to about 1,000 children in schools managed by DLF in Gurgaon.

The foundation estimates a meal for workers would cost around Rs 30, an additional 10 per cent on the costs, which would be funded back to the midday meals for government school students.

"Whenever a worker eats a meal, a needy child also gets a meal," said Venkat.

While Janta Meals is a non-government initiative, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have experimented with food for the urban poor and blue-collar workers. While the Amma Canteen in Tamil Nadu is a success, in Andhra Pradesh, the government shelved the project because of high cost of operations.

Venkat said the foundation could keep the costs low for workers as it already had sunken costs on an industrial scale cooking for school children and only operational costs were counted.

For the midday meals in schools, Akshaya Patra gets 60 per cent funding from the government with the remaining amount supported by other funds. It has been invited again by the Delhi government to supply midday meals from the next academic year.

As the foundation brings down costs, it has invested an advanced all-batch manufacturing unit that has automatic numerical controls. It retains the flavour of the food, while cooking at an industrial scale.

"It will save eight per cent revenue expenditure. It is huge, around Rs 20 crore. We can supply meals to 300,000 children," said Venkat.

EXPLORING NEW AVENUES

Akshaya Patra is one of the largest providers of food under midday meal

CURRENT STATUS
Children: 1.41 million
Schools: 10,770
States: 10
Costs: The cost of each meal is Rs 8, 60 funded by the government and the rest from grants
Target: 5 million children

FUTURE PLANS
Aim: To provide meals to blue collar workers
Pilots: L&T, DFL and Janta Meals, funded by Tata Trust Grant
Cost: Rs 30 for each meal

Source: Business Standard      Dated: November 22, 2015