Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mid-day meal scheme in Tamil Nadu

 The Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of the charitable trusts in India began serving mid-day meal in Tamil Nadu since July 2011. Tamil Nadu is the pioneer state to initiate the mid-day meal programme. This initiative has a little story behind it. Once K. Kamaraj, Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister came across a little boy herding livestock near the town of Cheranmahadevi. Kamaraj asked him, “What are you doing with these cows? Why didn’t you go to school?” The little boy instantly retorted, “If I go to school, will you give me food to eat? I can learn only if I eat.” Unknowingly this little boy had touched upon the country’s most critical problem that a child cannot learn with a hungry stomach. This event led to the introduction of the mid-day meal scheme in Tamil Nadu in 1960s with an aim to reduce hunger and encourage universal primary education.

Following many such events, the Supreme Court of India on 28 November 2001 passed an order stating all the children of Government schools and Government aided schools should be provided with free cooked mid-day meal. As a charitable trust in India, Akshaya Patra had begun providing mid-day meal in June 2000. After the Supreme Court’s declaration this charitable trust in India started working closely with the Government and adopted the Public-Private Partnership model. The Foundation started serving mid-day meal in Karnataka and gradually spread its reach to nine other states of India. One among them is Tamil Nadu. As a NGO in Tamil Nadu for children Akshaya Patra is currently feeding 718 children in a school of Chennai.

The mid-day meal scheme in Tamil Nadu is one of the most effective, well run and structured programmes. The State Government plays a very participative role in this programme. Almost all the Government schools get covered under the scheme. As a NGO in Tamil Nadu for children, Akshaya Patra caters to one private school in the state. Apart from operating as a NGO in Tamil Nadu for children, Akshaya Patra also operates as a NGO in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. In total this charitable trust in India provides mid-day meal to 1.4 million children of 10,661 Government schools spread across 23 locations.

Akshaya Patra employs two formats of kitchen in preparing mid-day meals - centralised kitchen and decentralised kitchen. 21 locations follow the centralised kitchen format and two locations namely – Baran in Rajasthan and Nayagarh in Odisha follow the decentralised kitchen format due to topographical reasons. The NGO employs the centralised kitchen format to cater to the mid-day meal scheme in Tamil Nadu.

This charitable trust in India aims to feed 5 million children by 2020. Alongside sustaining its service as a NGO in Tamil Nadu for children and in nine other existing states, the NGO plans to expand its reach to newer locations so that more children can get benefitted with the already promising mid-day meal programme.

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