India Inc serves food, love
Some of the top names in corporate India partner with Govt to feed 2.5 lakh children, reports Siddhartha S Bose.india Updated: Dec 19, 2006 15:42 IST
From the hearths of India Inc comes warm food for schoolchildren in Rajasthan. Some of the biggest names in corporate India and abroad have partnered with the government to feed 2.5 lakh children with quality meals cooked and served piping hot during their lunch break.
Of the 76 lakh children in more than 74,000 schools in Rajasthan being provided cooked food every day, 3.5 lakh children are being fed under the public-private scheme. "The number of children being fed under the public-private partnership has more than trebled within a year," says Sudhansh Pant, director Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Rajasthan.
"In December 2005, 69,000 schoolchildren were being served food under the scheme, which has increased to 3.5 lakh students this year," says Pant.
Infrastructure to serve more than 4 lakh students is already in place and still more students will get the benefits over the next few months.
The involvement of the private sector in the scheme was launched under the directives of the Supreme Court. Bangalore-based Akshay Patra Foundation backed by Infosys was the first to set up a kitchen equipped to feed up to 1.5 lakh schoolchildren daily in Jaipur.
Others soon followed. Havell's, Shree Sanvaliyaji Temple Trust, ISKCON, Jay Gee Humanitarian Society have already joined the cause. Naandi Foundation with Hindustan Zinc Limited and RK Marbles are proposed to open up kitchens in Kapasan, Neembahera and Kishangarh.
The Gas Authority of India Limited, DCM Sri Ram and Aditya Birla Group are set to cover another 3 lakh children under the scheme. "Most of the contributions come through the trusts where they offer money for charity," says a state department official.
For a private partner to be eligible to participate in the Mid-day Meal Scheme, they have to construct a fully-equipped kitchen that prepares fresh food. "In one year, 32,000 kitchens have been constructed, which is a phenomenal achievement," says Pant. He compares the situation to Tamil Nadu, which has 28,000 kitchens where the scheme has been running for 25 years.
Currently, thousands of women in gram panchayats are cooking and serving hot food to school-going children in their villages. The move has helped empower over 10,000 women in 500 Women's Cooperative Societies, who get paid for the cooking they do. "In two gram panchayats in every block, Annapurna Mahila Sahakari Samitis have been formed. These are run entirely by women who cook the food and serve it to schoolchildren," says Pant.
This scheme is particularly useful in areas where schools are scattered and running a centralised kitchen is not a viable option.
The results are more than heartening. The quality of food has improved considerably with massive centralised cooking facilities raised to cook and serve food in the districts. This has in effect boosted the enrolment of children in government schools.