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28 February 2019, Gateway House

Akshaya Patra: case study on food security

On Feb 26, the Akshaya Patra Foundation was conferred the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize by the President of India. It began as a charitable venture in 2000, serving a nutritious lunch to 1,500 children in five Bangalore schools. The meal was so well received that a year later the Indian government mandated a nutritious lunch meal to be served in every government school. Akshaya Patra, a partner with the central and state government in this effort, is now the world’s largest mid-day meal programme, and served its 3 billionth meal this month. This successful public-private partnership uses high technology, engineering, world-class logistics and management to achieve its goals. But it also ensures India’s food security by sourcing grains and vegetables from local farmers, which in turn preserves the diversity of regional food habits and nutrition. Akshay Patra’s case study on food security was written especially for, and presented at, the ThinkTank20 (T20) meeting hosted by Gateway House in Mumbai in February 2018. The T20 is an official sub-forum of the G20, and the 2018 meeting was held under the G20 presidency of Argentina, one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of agricultural products. Food security and sustainable agriculture was one of the three key issues for Argentina’s G20 Presidency – a focus which India also shares

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This case study was written especially for, and presented at, the ThinkTank20 (T20) meeting hosted by Gateway House in Mumbai in February 2018Click here to view the entire Case Study.


The need:

Power of one hot meal is only realised by the truly famished. In a nation which ranks 103rd of 119 in Global Hunger Index 2018, it is imperative that attempts are made to eradicate hunger, and where children are involved, the need is even higher.

Our food security is seriously threatened by economic, ecological, and social factors. Eternal vigilance is essential for safeguarding our food security.” – M. S. Swaminathan (Indian Geneticist)

Whether food insecurity leads to poverty by waning the cognitive power of a child or poverty primes to food insecurity by decreasing the retention in the education system; the link is very difficult to establish. This vicious circle is shaped and twisted in a developing country because of various developmental factors.

Two Articles of the Indian Constitution are fundamental to the healthy growth of a society: Article 21 which guarantees every Indian citizen the “right to life” and Article 47 which explicitly states that “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties…”  Till the end of the 4th Five Year Plan (1969-74), India’s main emphasis was on the aggregate growth of the economy and reliance was placed on the
percolation effects of its growth. An alternative strategy of development, comprising an anterior attack on poverty, unemployment and malnutrition in the face of continuing poverty and undernourishment; malnutrition became a national priority from the 5th Five Year Plan (1974-78) onwards. This shift in strategy gave rise to a number of interventions to increase the purchasing power of the poor, to improve the provision of basic services to them and to devise a security system through which, the most vulnerable sections (viz. women and children) could be protected. Nutrition came to the forefront of policy making in India in the mid-1990s, with the 1993 National Nutrition Policy (NNP) and the 1995 National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN).

The Policies:

National Nutrition Policy (NNP)

Under this landmark policy, the Government of India adopted an all-inclusive and wide-ranging approach towards the colossal problem of malnutrition and undernutrition, by implementing various policies and nutrition schemes.

The policies under the NNP, aimed at

  • Increasing the production of food grains
  • Better utilisation of food resources by applying better technology
  • Educating the common man about the benefits of the food that already existed
  • Protecting the vulnerable groups by protecting them against certain nutritional deficiencies and diseases
  • Supplementary feeding of the most vulnerable groups

One of the key interventions conceptualised to address food insecurity under the NNP was the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. The programme was designed and launched to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide by serving them free lunches on school days.

Since its launch, the programme has undergone several changes. With an aim to enhance enrolment, retention and attendance, and simultaneously improve nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPSE) was launched as a centrally Sponsored Scheme on 15 August, 1995.

In 2001, the programme became a cooked Mid-Day Meal Scheme under which every child in Government and Government-aided primary schools were to be served a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12-gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days. The Scheme was further extended in 2002 to cover not only children studying in Government, Government-aided and local body schools, but also to children studying in Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternative & Innovative Education (AIE) centres.

The Scheme went through another revision in April 2008, post which the MDM programme extended to both recognised and unrecognised Madrasas/Maqtabs supported under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. Presently it serves 94 million children in over 11 lakh schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres, as the largest feeding programme in the world.

Over the years, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme has done much to eradicate hunger and promote education, but these are not the only two areas where the scheme has helped. There also exist other areas where the indirect impacts of the same have been felt massively. For instance, in realising the goals set by countries to attain the resolutions of the Sustainable Development Goals:

  • To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • To achieve universal primary education
  • To promote gender equality and empower women
  • To reduce child mortality

Objective of the study:

The objective of this case study is to understand Akshaya Patra’s contribution to food security and process involved to make it a successful initiative.

Click here to view the entire Case Study.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Bengaluru, India. Our organisation strives to eliminate classroom hunger by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the government schools and government-aided schools. Alongside, Akshaya Patra also aims at countering malnutrition and supporting the right to education of socio-economically disadvantaged children.

This case study was written especially for, and presented at, the ThinkTank20 (T20) meeting hosted by Gateway House in Mumbai in February 2018.

For interview requests with the author, or for permission to republish, please contact

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