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Akshaya Patra Foundation which is one of the implementing partners of the Government’s Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme is making sure to address classroom hunger and malnutrition while incentivizing education and reducing dropout rates in beneficiary schools.

Shridhar Venkat, CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation stated- “With more than 11.59 crore children enrolled under it, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme is one of the most elaborated child nutrition programmes across the globe. It provides access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food which is directly connected to physical and cognitive development and well-being across the life cycle especially during childhood. Serving as many children as it does, food safety becomes one of the most critical aspects of the Scheme’s implementation.”

“The foundation initially started by feeding 1500 children in one city and served more than 1.8 million children across the nation every school day as of 2020. We uphold the responsibility of offering safe, hygienic, and health-giving meals to children. Precautions are taken at every stage to ensure that the utmost standards of safety and efficiency are met,” he further said.

Raw materials are sourced only from trusted vendors and the organization resorts to Supplier Quality Management System (SQMS) to make sure that the superior quality of raw materials are gathered. First-in First-out (FIFO) approach is employed for perishable commodities. Cooking temperature is checked and recorded at periodic intervals ensuring the good quality of meals.

At present, the foundation runs 51 centralized kitchens across 12 states and two union territories of the country. State-of-the-art technology are used in these kitchens to prepare thousands of hot, safe, healthy, and delicious meals within hours while sticking to the highest food safety standards. After cooking, the food is packed into stainless steel containers and transported via conveyor belts to be loaded into custom made food distribution vehicles. These vehicles safely deliver cooked food to schools as per a strict schedule. Post-delivery quality check processes such as audits and feedback is a compulsory and crucial part of the food safety protocol.

The foundation’s kitchens comply with the Food Safety and Management System (FSMS), 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardise, and Sustain), and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). Its food safety measures also encompass safety and hygiene norms mandated for all kitchen staff, like wearing safety gear at all times, frequent hand sanitization, and health and safety sessions conducted regularly. Furthermore, the kitchens have skilled cooks and production supervisors to manage and run the entire process. To ensure the maintenance of food quality, quality checks are done by the quality officers in each kitchen.

The organization has also set up state-of-the-art Food Safety and Quality Control Labs (FSQC Labs), mini food labs, and cluster food labs to ease the evaluation of products, ranging from raw materials to cooked meals that are part of the MDM processes. There are 25 such labs in several locations of the nation. The foundation’s FSQC labs are in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), and Jigani (Karnataka), and one mobile lab is in Vizag (Andhra Pradesh).

“Reaching millions of children across India, the Government’s MDM Scheme is one of the most necessary child nutrition programmes. Bringing as many children as possible under the Scheme’s horizon will also mean continuing to offer safe and nutritious meals to them, bolster their nutritional status, and keep them in school. Alongside the Government, implementing partners such as Akshaya Patra play a vital role in setting high standards for food safety so that the children of India have seamless access to both, nutrition and education,” added Venkat.

Shashank Gaurav
Author

A Zoophile scrambling the horizon for surreal subtleties, sheer poetic at heart and quite handy with life.

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