Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thanking Lord Annapurna

"This food gives us a sense of equality. Everyone gets the same food. We get to eat vegetables that we dont usually get to eat at home. The food is delicious and we have been eating this since 1st std. Our parents are happy that we are getting education and they dont have to worry about our nutrition." - words of a 9th std. student from a government school in Bangalore. 

I was recently invited by an NGO to document the mid-day meal scheme run by Akshaya Patra foundation. I visited the centralized kitchen and also visited one of the 1,055 schools in Bangalore that is served by Akshaya Patra.

I was amazed to look at the magnificent facility where 184, 530 student's food is made daily in the most clean and hygienic way. The photographs tell the rest of the story.
The containers where tonnes of rice and dal are stored for the day's meal. 

The rice and pulses are cleaned minutely. 

Vegetables are cleaned and cut manually. The cleaning process is the only task which is done manually. 

Machines where rice and sambhar are made. This reduces the human handling of food and for any foreign elements to enter the food while it is being prepared.

The food is stored in steel containers and there is no human contact in the entire process. 
Sabji being made.

I met a few students from 'Government Model Primary school', Bangalore. Everyone seemed so happy with the meal, they were all praises for the food. I was overwhelmed to see their positive response and the fact that there were students who were allowed to come to school by their parents because they were getting good food. Its a pity that parents send them to school for this reason, however its also their circumstances that make them think this way.

I have been a teacher earlier for 3 years, teaching in schools where students were from well-to-do families. They paid the school for the year's mid-day meal. However, I always heard complaints and cribbing about the food and the menu, inspite of getting an entire buffet. They didnt realize how lucky they were to have such a lavish meal.

Also, when I studied in NID, the mess food was pretty good in standards. Even then, students complained about the food regularly.

But my visit to this school, I was humbled to hear all praises about the food they got. Its true, you never value things in your life that are easily available to you.

Students wash their own plates and form a queue to get their meal.

A girl sharing her meal with her friends. 

There was no one to tell them to sit in a line, they arranged themselves on their own. 

                                       पूजयेदशनं नित्यं अद्याच्चैनमकुत्सयन्  
                               दृष्ट्वा हृष्येत् प्रसीदेच्च प्रतिनन्देच्च सर्वश: 
Food should always be worshipped and taken with the utmost reverence. The sight of food should delight one’s heart and fill it with joy.  It should always be  cherished  whatever the situation.