Soon, centralised kitchens for schools in rural areas

Soon, centralised kitchens for schools in rural areas

Now, schools in rural areas can also be provided with midday meals through centralised kitchens.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has revised the midday meal scheme rules, stipulating that centralised kitchens can be set up to cater to the clusters of schools in rural areas that have good road connectivity.

The previous rules, last revised and notified in 2015, had provisions for setting up of the centralised kitchens for providing hot cooked midday meals to elementary school students in urban areas only.

“Every school shall have the facility for cooking meals in a hygienic manner. The schools in urban areas and in identified rural areas, which have good road connectivity and viable cluster of schools for the purpose of leveraging efficiency gains, may use the facility of centralised kitchens for cooking meals wherever required in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central government... the meal shall be served to children at their respective schools only,” the revised rules stated.

Official sources in the ministry said that the centralised kitchens would help schools engage their teachers “in their prime job of teaching”.

Under the midday meal guidelines on food safety and hygiene, at least one teacher of the school has to be deployed to supervise and monitor the cooking and serving of the meals under the scheme.

However, the revised rules would also enable the state governments reduce the number of midday meal cooking facilities along with the cooks-cum-helpers deployed in the schools under the scheme with handing over the job to centralised kitchens.

More than 25 lakh cook-cum-helpers are engaged to provide midday meals to over nine crore children studying at 11.43 lakh schools in the country. Most of these cooks-cum-helpers are women, who belong to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes.

For the past several years, they have been demanding a hike in their monthly remuneration from the current Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. At least 13 states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, have increased their monthly honorarium adding up funds from their accounts.

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