Jamshedpur, July 10: The midday meal nightmare — rodents in meals, caved-in kitchens, routinely pilfered kitchen supplies and the like — will get an unlamented burial soon in Jamshedpur, Adityapur and Gamharia, as a centralised kitchen system, a joint venture of the state government, Tata Steel and Iskcon Food Relief Foundation, will kick-start by November this year.
Chief minister Arjun Munda today laid the foundation stone of the state’s first and India’s 25th centralised modular kitchen near Ramdas Bhatta Community Centre, a public-private partnership project to cost Rs 4.5 crore, and said it would go a long way in eradicating malnourishment and propel more children to enrol in school.
“Two of Jharkhand’s major challenges are eradicating malnourishment and imparting quality education. The provision of quality midday meals will not just help children get healthy, it will also give a boost to the literacy rate. Today we have started this (kitchen) in Jamshedpur. I’d want all the 24 districts in the state to have at least one centralised kitchen so that our children get the best nutrition they can in school. I hope other corporate firms take Tata Steel’s example and contribute to this task through public-private partnerships,” Munda said while addressing the gathering at Ramdas Bhatta Community Centre.
The foundation stone ceremony was also attended by state human resource development department secretary Mridula Sinha, Tata Steel managing director H.M. Nerurkar, Iskcon Food Relief Foundation director Venu Madhav Das, MLA Jamshedpur (West) Banna Gupta, Tata Steel vice-president (corporate services) Sanjeev Paul, East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Himani Pandey, East Singhbhum SSP Akhilesh Kumar Jha, among others.
The 1.14-acre kitchen will initially cater to the midday meals of 65,000 students of 238 government schools of Jamshedpur, Adityapur and Gamharia under the midday meal programme.
The centralised kitchen will involve minimum human handling and will be mostly mechanised, with state-of-the-art cooking gadgets. The food will be cooked in steam to preserve nutrients, sealed in packets and transported to schools in pick-up vans.
Workers, around 70, will be local youths, but they will first have to undergo a month-long training in New Delhi. The preparation of food would start at midnight, while packaging will begin at 5am. According to the Iskcon director, food will reach schools in an hour of despatch from the centre.
“Investments should help promote children as assets. I urge more and more people to participate in ventures such as these. Children should not feel the lack of opportunities and turn against us. That will affect society adversely. We must clear all obstacles in education to help children develop their potential,” Munda, who took a personal interest in the venture, said.
“We are happy that the Jharkhand government and Tata Steel gave us the chance to cater to Jharkhand’s children. The best part is that children will get hygienic food cooked in healthy and sanitised process. We will serve fresh and hot vegetarian food worth the mandatory 450 calories prescribed by the government,” Das said, adding Iskcon currently catered to 1.2 million Indian children.
Sinha, while hailing the move, said community kitchen services would be launched in remote districts. “Logistics hinder installation of hi-tech kitchens in villages. There, the Centre will focus on community kitchens where mothers chip in as cooks,” said Sinha.