The Akshaya Patra Foundation was awarded the “Innovation for India Award” in the Social category by the Marico Innovation Foundation. The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mid-day meal program was deemed a strong innovation with a powerful impact that is making a significant difference to India.
The Innovation for India Awards are given across Business, Social and Public Service categories, and the most deserving innovations are marked by simplified processes, low costs, sustainability and transformational impact. Mr. Nandan Nilekani keynoted this year’s award presentation.
The winners were selected on three basic criteria: sustainability, an innovation that is likely to endure for a long time; uniqueness, an innovation that is doing something different and one of a kind; and impact, an innovation that is creating a significant social impact. Akshaya Patra met all three criteria and placed 1st out of 145 contestants in the Social category for its innovative mechanized kitchens and different kitchen models that cater to urban and rural schools. These uniquely designed kitchens enable the foundation to provide hot nourishing food to over 1.3 million children daily, across 10 states of India, from 21 kitchens.
Started modestly in Bangalore feeding 1500 children in 5 schools, the Akshaya Patra Foundation is one of the world’s largest NGO-run midday meal programs. A public-private partnership, Akshaya Patra combines good management, innovative technology and smart engineering to deliver school lunch at a fraction of the cost of similar programs in other parts of the world. It costs Akshaya Patra only $15 to feed a child for an entire year. This meal gives these children an incentive to come to school, stay in school and provides them with the necessary nutrients they need to develop their cognitive abilities and focus on learning.
The mechanized kitchen models are not the only area where Akshaya Patra has excelled in innovation. The foundation has successfully combined the execution excellence of the for-profit sector with the deep compassion of the non-profit sector to design solutions that are helping the most vulnerable segments of the Indian society. Not only do they continually institute improvements in the kitchens to increase efficiency and scale as well as work on the supply chain to manage procurement and inventory but they have also implemented Six Sigma business practices to improve the quality of process outputs as well as Enterprise Resource Planning to help ensure their costs remain low.
In a short time, the Akshaya Patra Foundation has grown to become the largest, and certainly most innovative, school lunch program in the world. Their next milestone is to serve 5 million children daily by 2020.