09:36am Sunday 05 April 2020

World’s largest school lunch program using novel rice fortification technology to prevent childhood malnutrition

Akshaya Patra’s three large-scale kitchen operations in Rajasthan, India, will soon fortify the rice served daily in their midday meal—ensuring that each serving of rice provides the schoolchildren with half of their recommended daily intake of iron, a micronutrient critical to physical growth and cognitive development.

The government-supplied rice served by Akshaya Patra’s Rajasthan kitchens will be fortified using iron-enriched Ultra Rice® grains developed by PATH to bridge gaps in dietary intake and to prevent malnutrition in rice-consuming populations.

“PATH has long admired the work of Akshaya Patra and is deeply honored to enable the delivery of fortified rice to the schoolchildren they serve in Rajasthan. We look forward to demonstrating the impact of our partnership and hope to continue our joint work with Akshaya Patra to feed children’s potential throughout India,” said Dipika Matthias, director of PATH’s Ultra Rice Project.

In the developing world, more than half of all deaths among children under the age of five are linked to malnutrition. Although India is the second-fastest growing economy in the world and the fourth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, some 40 percent of its 1.2 billion people still live on less than $1 per day. In addition, the 2009 Global Hunger Index ranked India 65 out of 84 countries but concluded that India has more than 200 million people suffering from hunger and malnutrition—more than any other country in the world.

“Akshaya Patra believes that no child in India should be deprived of education because of hunger or malnutrition. It is a great privilege to partner with PATH to provide iron-enriched meals that prevents high rates of iron-deficiency anemia among schoolchildren in India,” said Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice chairman of Akshaya Patra India.

Fortification of staple foods is considered to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for addressing micronutrient malnutrition—a hidden hunger characterized by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals like iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin A. Micronutrient deficiencies can compromise children’s immune systems as well as their physical and cognitive development during formative years of growth. Regular consumption of fortified foods offers a consistent means of delivering micronutrients to the body and helps to prevent micronutrient deficiencies from occurring in the first place.

Ultra Rice grains are made from rice flour and selected micronutrients using pasta-making extrusion equipment. They resemble milled rice in size, shape, and color but contain additional vitamins and minerals that are packed within the extruded grains, ensuring that the grains retain their micronutrient content while being rinsed, washed, and boiled in water. Ultra Rice grains are blended with traditional milled rice, typically at a 1:100 blend ratio. The resulting fortified rice is nearly identical to unfortified rice in smell, taste, and texture.

It costs about $0.40 USD per child per school year to fortify rice with Ultra Rice. Currently, Akshaya Patra spends $28 USD per child per school year to provide midday meals to 1.2 million children each day through 18 kitchens located in 7 states throughout India. Its innovative, award-winning mechanized kitchen facilities enable the cost-effective and hygienic delivery of high-quality midday meals. An AC Nielson Impact Study of the program showed the provision of midday meals improved school enrollment, retention rates, and classroom performance. A strategic intervention addressing cycles of poverty and hunger, the program aims to expand its reach to 5 million children by 2020.

Both Akshaya Patra and PATH were independently honored as 2009 Tech Award Laureates by The Tech Museum of Innovation. The Tech Awards is a prestigious international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. Akshaya Patra was honored as the Microsoft Education Award Winner, and PATH was honored as the Nokia Health Award Winner at the 2009 Tech Awards Gala in California (www.techawards.org/about/gala/). The partnership of Akshaya Patra and PATH thus represents a synergistic intersection of education and health innovations for the benefit of resource-poor children in India.

Ultra Rice grains are currently manufactured in India by Swagat Food Products (P) Ltd. and in Brazil by Adorella Alimentos Ltda. PATH is also working to advance the commercialization and introduction of Ultra Rice into a wider range of geographies, including Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

More information

About Akshaya Patra

Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest nongovernmental organization (NGO) midday meal program, provides freshly prepared, wholesome meals to over one million underserved children daily in over 6,000 schools throughout India. These meals help children to stay in school and provide them with the necessary nutrients they need to develop their cognitive abilities to focus on learning. Akshaya Patra operates centralized kitchens in urban and suburban areas of India that are designed for optimal quality, improved efficiencies, and minimal cost. Facilities consist of a series of mechanized steam-heated cauldrons, custom-built to cook nutrient-rich, native food most appreciated by children on a long-term basis. Mechanization also minimizes human handling of food to ensure high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Steam heating accelerates the cooking process, enabling Akshaya Patra to prepare large-scale meals in less than five hours. Centralized kitchens are located in Bangalore, Hubli-Dharwad, Mangalore, Mysore, Bellary, Jaipur, Nathdwara, Puri, Gandhinagar/Ahmedabad, Vrindavan, Hyderabad, Visakapatanam, and Bhilai. For more information, visit www.akshayapatra.org.

About PATH

PATH is an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being. For more information, please visit www.path.org.

Ultra Rice® is a registered trademark in the United States of Bon Dente International, Inc.

Contact: Binali Suhandani, Akshaya Patra Foundation India, +09898031919, [email protected]; Amy Wales, PATH, +206.302.4689, [email protected]

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