Updated Oct 22, 2019

Chandani Punia

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Stage 6: Sustained Scale

Focus Areas:

Social and Behavior Change

Social and Behavior ChangeSEE LESS

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Despite India’s steady economic growth, the world’s largest democracy still faces substantial, interconnected development challenges: poverty, illiteracy and food insecurity. According to the World Bank, thirty percent of India’s population lives below the poverty line. Roughly 380 million people in the country survive on less than $1.25 a day. India’s education system is often cited as a major contributor to its economic development. However, much of this success is attributable to investment in higher education and scientific research. India is still home to the largest population of illiterate adults in world – 287 million, amounting to 37% of the global total. Although more than 96% of all children in India enroll in primary school only 58.3% enroll in upper primary school. Against a backdrop of extreme poverty, families are often forced to pull their children from school to help put food on the table. For the children that are able to attend and stay in school, hunger negatively impacts learning. Childhood hunger causes poor classroom attendance, inability to focus in school and poor academic. Nearly a third of all malnourished children in the world reside in India. The complexity and interconnectedness of these challenges in India warrant solutions that address education from multiple lenses, including nutrition and food. Food security and education have the potential to uplift not only a family but also the entire society by breaking the vicious ‘poverty-hunger-illiteracy’ cycle.



We believe that nutrition-based interventions incentivize children to come to school and also incentivize resource constrained families to send their children to school knowing that they can access one nutritious meal a day. We also believe in activating partnerships in every step of our value chain right from food procurement to our interaction with children in schools. What this means is that we invite partners to leverage our relationship with schools and our reach in India to better serve children in ways that are outside the scope of our work. We are also intentional about our operating model. Our values are rooted in women's empowerment, generating local employment, buying local and serving food that matches local food preferences.

Target Beneficiaries

Percentage of boys we feed, across India 55% Percentage of girls we feed, across India 45%

Innovation Description

Our core Mid-day Meal program provides free lunches to children at all Government schools in India in order to enhance enrollment, retention and attendance, and also improve access to nutrition. The Government of India mandated the mid-day meal for school children in 2003; since then, Akshaya Patra has partnered with the Government to serve cooked mid-day meals at Government schools. Our beneficiaries, ages 6-14 years old, mostly come from under-resourced families. For many of the children that we serve, our meal is the only meal they have in a day. For struggling families, mid-day meals are an incentive to send their children to school where they have access to educational opportunities. While at school, the mid-day meal program provides nutrition needed to develop key cognitive abilities and learn. This is particularly impactful for our beneficiaries who come from families of migrant workers in construction or farming jobs and lack kitchen infrastructure to store and prepare nutritious food.

Competitive Advantage

We source local produce, operate 41 centralized and 2 decentralized kitchens and transport hot, nutritious meals in custom designed vans to ensure food safety. Our kitchens can cook anywhere between 10,000 to 250,000 meals within 6 hours.


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