The world’s largest non-profit-run midday meal program for school children is looking at new technologies including blockchain to support and enhance its project to put an end to child hunger.
The program, titled ‘Akshaya Patra‘ that translates to ‘inexhaustible or unlimited vessel’, is a mid-day meal scheme that serves food to children in government schools and government-aided schools in India that are commonly attended by children from low-income households. The namesake non-profit foundation began in 2000, serving 1,5000 school children in 5 schools to now provide food to over 1.6 million children from 13,529 across 11 states in India. The meals program has also helped in raising school attendance.
The foundation has now revealed details about a collaboration with services and consulting firm Accenture to strengthen its ‘Million Meals’ project with disruptive technologies including blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. The three technologies were specifically chosen for their potential to address ‘significant challenges’ in mass meal production and delivery of these meals to over a million children every day.
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Accenture Labs, the R&D arm of Accenture implemented these technologies over a six-month period in Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in Bangalore, widely seen as the technology capital of India.
“We thought this was an ideal providing ground to put the combined power of AI, IoT and blockchain to use,” stated Accenture Labs managing director Sanjay Podder.
The technology provider began its six-month project with a prototype for improving kitchen operations and output. For critical processes were recognized: measuring the quantity of food and supplies to be purchased, monitoring meal production, tracking food delivery and collecting school feedback.
Using blockchain technology, the project was able to move away from manually gained feedback from children and schools, to digitally collect the information. Accenture then leveraged AI technology to predict the next day’s meal requirements using the feedback. Using data over a blockchain, captured by mobile devices, the team were also able to track the time taken for food deliveries at each school.
IoT sensors were used to monitor and sequence the daily cooking processes to check for food quality and make optimum use of gas and energy consumption.
Ultimately, the team’s analysis determined that the project’s efficiency could be improved by 20%, ‘which could boost the numbers of meals served by millions,’ according to the announcement.
Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation underlined the benefits of implementing these disruptive technologies. He stated:
This initiative not only enhanced efficiency while giving a boost to our operations, but ensured that quality standards are met while increasing the number of meals served. We aim to expand our reach to millions of more children with the help of such technologies.
Featured image from Akshaya Patra.