The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Black Forest for mid-day meal

Darjeeling, Nov. 27: Spongy Black Forest cakes, melt-in-mouth sandwiches and crunchy vegetable rolls. An ideal breakfast, or tea-time, fare for many, but for students of a government-aided school, it’s their daily mid-day meal, with variations of course.

Teachers and parents of the primary wing of Turnbull Higher Secondary School have struck upon a novel menu, doing away with the idea that mid-day meals were for the financially weak and so should be limited to rice and dal.

The school has started distributing lunch packets comprising goodies from a leading confectioner in Darjeeling. “Most of our students come from backgrounds where they cannot afford such food. We decided to approach a leading confectioner here who decided to help us distribute the best items that are on sale,” Sushma Lama, a teacher of Turnbull School, told The Telegraph.

The shop has decided to charge only the cost price of the items. So, while a piece of Black Forest comes at Rs 20, the school is paying only about one-fourth its normal price.

“The mid-day meal is conducted by the Mother Teacher Association (of which parents too are members) and the government provides funds on a quarterly basis. We had some funds with us (resulting from irregular distribution some time this year when the headmaster died and the president of the MTA could not continue) and we approached the confectioner with our budget,” said Lama. The primary wing has 200 students on its roll.

According to the government’s mid-day meal norm, the association has to serve cooked meals to students. The yardstick for the amount to be cooked is 100 gm per student per day. The MTA is also given 30 gm of dal per student per day and an additional Rs 2 per student per day to buy products like cooking oil, salt, etc.

“When we gave them Black Forest topped with cherry, many asked us what the ‘red thing’ was. We were moved and we felt it was worth the effort,” said Lama, who is also the treasurer of the MTA.

But the packed lunches will give way to cooked meals, once the annual examinations are over. The good news, however, is that the menu for cooked meals is going to change too. “We will provide them with items like chicken fried rice, found in the best restaurants in town,” Lama said.

The confectioner which also runs a leading restaurant in town has decided to provide its in-house cook for free so that the school can make the best of the items made available to it. “The offer is there from the restaurant but a final consensus has to come from the MTA,” she added.

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