NGO opposes more mid-day meals duties to Akshaya Patra

NGO opposes more mid-day meals duties to Akshaya Patra

Members of Ahaara Namma Hakku, a non-governmental organisation, on Tuesday opposed the proposal to hand over the responsibility of cooking mid-day meals for students of 50 government schools in Anekal to Akshaya Patra Foundation.

However, no such decision has been taken, said education department officials have clarified.

Ramamurthy D R, Anekal block education officer, told DH that the proposal was made due to the delay in salaries to kitchen staff and their inability to work in the school kitchens without salary for six months straight.

A total of 68 NGOs cook mid-day meals for 5,507 government schools in the state in which 8.73 lakh students study. The foundation already serves mid-day meals to 1.83 lakh students in 1,212 schools in Bengaluru alone.

According to a list collated by the NGO, the foundation caters to the highest number of schools and students when compared to other NGOs that prepare mid-day meals.

Dr Sylvia Karpagam, a public health activist and member of Ahaara Namma Hakku, said consumption of food by students is lesser when supplied by NGOs when compared to the food cooked in the school kitchen.

In a statement, the NGO said to save on multiple trips to school, NGOs combine the delivery of milk (Ksheera Bhagya scheme) and food (Akshara Dasoha scheme). Therefore, either the milk is delivered too late or food is delivered too early. Because of the long-time gap between preparation of food (3 am-4 am) and its consumption (12:30 pm-1:00 pm), the food quality and its taste deteriorate. Children rarely go back for second helpings and are consuming less.

Ramamurthy D R said the school kitchen staff received their October salary that was due last May this year. This caused the workers with great hardship.

Manjunath SC, in-charge Joint Director, Mid Day Meal Scheme of the education department, said no decision has been taken to handover additional schools to NGOs, and that by the end of this year, pending salaries would be given out.

"The education department has decided to maintain the status quo and no additional schools will be handed over to NGOs for mid-day meals. The school kitchen staff have been paid their salary until August. The dues will be paid by the end of this month," Manjunath added.

When DH tried to reach out to Akshaya Patra Foundation for a reaction, a spokesperson said: "We need more time to react on this."

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