Akshaya Patra - Contributions towards a sustainable Mid-day Meal program for rural schools in Guwahati The visit to the Kitchen gave the Design students an exposure to the way in which a large scale organization can effectively exist and operate and contribute invaluably to the society in the context of a developing country like India and for the Norwegian students a unique learning opportunity in an altogether different scenario.
This workshop was a collaborative learning experience about the different aspects of sustainability. In all the aspects of the three P’s of sustainability namely People, Planet & profit, this organization gave enough guidance to the students in learning. Even though the organization is not operating for profits, the whole process is so efficiently designed at par with any profit organization which itself reveals that the aspect of profit in the domain of sustainability is more to make the organization more efficient, optimized, and competent. For example the use of 'Thick Gauged' (1.6mm) Stainless steel material for the vessels give it a long life and also reuse of the same vessels many times which eliminates the use of any plastic containers and packaging which generates wastes. The washing of these utensils are also done in a very systematic and efficient manner. This can be a useful method of adoption for organizations that operate in large scale like Indian Railways where a good dish washing system if developed can help reduce the use of plastic packaging that becomes the huge junk of wastes generated and littered around. The quality checks at each step and the surveillance for the wastes at all stages not only makes the process more effective but also gives leverage to the environment concern factor.
Beyond the social service Akshayapatra had been successful in creating a culture of sustainability throughout the organization. From their centralized kitchen model it is very clearly evident that the management is aware of the environmental and social issues and also their effect to the organization’s financial performance. However the optimization of this model, efficient transportation and distribution and customization of the menu preferences and the local labor are the biggest challenges they face.
The centralized kitchen uses automation and mechanization wherever possible. The cutting of the vegetables after it is cleaned, for sambhar and sabji, were carried out in an automatic cutting machine which could vary both the shape and the size depending on requirement. The right level of automation has the advantage of both improving efficiency through mechanization as well as utilizing the local manual labour thereby fulfilling the social responsibility of supporting the local population. Akshayapatra foundation is a good example of a product service system where they are not preparing food alone instead the whole process is defined from raw material procurement, cooking, packaging, transportation, return of vessels and waste disposal making it a closed loop. This close loop makes it more responsible in terms of waste minimization and waste disposal. It’s a good example of a product service system where a service of providing meals to the school children are rendered thereby making the future generation healthy and more productive.
Students came up with different possible design interventions in the operations of Akshaypatra. Many solutions included the use of natural lighting and ventilation wherever possible and also the use of bright colours. Redesigning of the vessels – which will result in saving space inside the kitchen, help in packaging of food, easy loading and unloading of these vessels in the vehicle etc. was one of the effective solutions. The small design interventions identified were very vital in making the system more flawless in terms of easy operation and timely completion of the tasks. These solutions although were developed in a very small span of time were very promising to be developed to the next stage.