Engineering better school lunches April 10, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , trackback
From NPR comes an interesting piece about a school lunch program operated by Indian engineers. The operators are called “Akshaya Patra“, which is directed by Shridhar Venkat, a former corporate CEO. Currently, the group delivers around 1.3 million school lunches daily, using freshly prepared foods.
The government provides grains and some funding, which is topped off through donations. Through these subsidies, and through efficiencies of scale and shipping, Akshaya Patra is able to deliver healthy lunches at about 11 cents/meal. No doubt, the availability of cheaper labor is helpful there too. Even so, the ability to serve decent food each day to school children over such a large area and at such a low cost is an astonishing feat. Nevertheless, Venkat says, they are always looking for more economies so that they can feed even more children.
Venkat’s motivation is certainly laudable as well:
“Feeding a child is not charity,” [Venkat says]. He used to be a corporate executive. To him, a child like Suchitra is not a hungry 13-year-old girl in poverty. She’s an opportunity, and giving her lunch is an investment. Tomorrow, an educated Suchitra could produce a huge return on that investment to her community, he said.
The payoff is that children are able to attend school who otherwise would be prevented because of a lack of nourishment:
“The school attendance goes up, malnutrition level comes down, dropout rates comes down,” Venkat says.
An increase in education levels benefits both the individual children and the country as a whole.
So, kudos to Akshaya Patra and to Shridhar Venkat on their accomplishment! It is always good to see technical and logistical savvy being used for such good ends.