Dept not to source mid-day meals from ISKCON kitchen

CHANDIGARH:Keeping in view the palate of students, the UT Education Department has decided not to source mid-day meals from the Akshaya Patra Foundation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

ROBINSINGH@TRIBUNE.COM

Charu Chhibber

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31

Keeping in view the palate of students, the UT Education Department has decided not to source mid-day meals from the Akshaya Patra Foundation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Chandigarh Tribune had earlier reported that students of government schools in the city will get mid-day meals from the Akshaya Patra Foundation of ISKCON from the new academic session, starting in April.

However, the Education Department has now taken a U-turn on its decision.

Confirming the development, Saroj Mittal, Deputy Director, School Education-II, said, “Last year, I had visited the ISKCON kitchen in Gurugram to discuss the proposal of the department with their officials. I toured the kitchen and even tasted the food, which is made without onion and garlic. Frankly, I did not find it suitable for the north Indian palate.”

She added that even the chapattis served were machine made, not suitable for consumption after a few hours of preparation. "If I did not find the food appetising, how can I expect the children to like it?" she questioned.

Mittal conceded that soon after she returned from Gurugram, she conducted an impromptu and informal survey in one of the government schools in the city.

"Children told me they relished the pakoda-kadhi, rajma, parantha served in mid-day meal. I don't think they will like the food made without onion and garlic and other north Indian spices. Moreover, children in this growing stage need healthy, nutritious food," she said. 

The DDSE-II said she even raised her concerns with the Education Secretary during a meeting.

The Education Department had decided to rope in ISKCON following numerous complaints against the quality of food being sourced from CITCO currently.

Last year in November, the department had increased the per student payment to CITCO - one of the three outsourced government agencies for providing mid-day meals in government schools in the city.

Earlier, CITCO was being paid Rs 4.5 per student. The payment was increased to Rs 7.2 per primary student and Rs 9.17 for upper primary students. In addition to that, 61 paise would also be paid to CITCO to serve soya nutri to the students.

CITCO used to serve plain rice in the mid-day meals. But it was instructed to serve vegetable pulao and also introduce gooseberry (amla) and soya nutri in the menu, keeping in view the multiple health benefits for growing children.

"Our cluster kitchens in seven government schools are providing mid-day meals to over 25,000 students, and the food is of good quality," Mittal said.

Significantly, last year in December, a budget of Rs 24.14 lakh was approved to enable schools to put together infrastructure for the same.

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