The Directorate of School Education has inked a Memorandum of Understanding with Akshaya Patra Foundation, a non-profit wing of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon), for supply of nutritious midday meals to over 50,000 students studying in 300 government schools in Puducherry. The midday meal programme will begin from June 2019.
Secretary to Education A. Anbarasu and Akshaya Patra foundation vice-chairman Chanchalapathi Dasa signed the MoU in the presence of Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, Education Minister R. Kamalakannan and representatives of the foundation in the Assembly on Thursday.
As per the MoU, the NGO would provide sambar rice twice a week while variety rice such as tamarind rice, tomato rice and vegetable
will be served for the rest of the week. In addition, nutritious food such as vegetable poriyal, boiled black channa (sundal), sweet pongal, curd and payasam will be served.
According to a senior government official, the central kitchen in Lawspet will be modernised by Akshaya Patra Foundation at a cost of Rs. 13 crore. The midday meal menu will necessarily include the choices of students as per the directions of the government. A wholesome, nutritious, hygienic meal will not only ensure that more students take midday meals but also increase the enrolment of students in government schools, the official said.
“Akshaya Patra has been providing midday meals to children in government schools in 13 States across the country. The programme began in 2000 in Bengaluru serving about 1,500 children. Today, we have expanded all over the country. Puducherry is the 13th State and we are serving about 17 lakh children all over the country,” said Chanchalapathi Dasa.
It is a programme with partnership with the government and the corporate business houses. “We have been functioning for the last 18 years. Our mission is to see that no child in India is deprived of education because of hunger. We are very secular in our approach because we only provide in government schools which has a secular policy for admission. The foundation makes no distinction on any social matters and want to see that a child is fed with nutritious food,” he said.
Akshaya Patra’s model is very similar to the one followed by the Government of Puducherry. The existing government kitchen in Lawspet would be modernised where meals would be prepared for about 50,000 children extending up to 1 lakh children. Vehicles will transport the food to the schools.
A lot of care would be taken in the kitchen. It would be fully automated and a lot of technology and good practices would be adopted for hygienic and safe handling of the food and subsequent transportation to the schools, Mr. Dasa said.
Mr. Dasa pointed out that the Akshaya Patra Foundation will work with the government which is already spending a certain amount for the midday meal programme.
“The foundation will also raise donations from public, companies and business houses and add to that money so that we can provide an enhanced, hygienic and a safe and nutritious meal,” he said.
Puducherry has been in the forefront in implementing the midday meal programme in the whole country. The programme was started way back in 1930 during the French regime.
Ashwani Kumar, Chief Secretary; Stoka Krishna Dasa, president; Kothandarama Dasa, vice-president and Shridhar Venkat, chief executive officer of Akshaya Patra Foundation were present.
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