Akshaya Patra Foundation, a non-profit wing of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), will take over the school noon-meal programme from the Education Department in the Union Territory of Puducherry in January.
"The non-governmental organisation will start the programme next month [January].
They will start with a few schools and scale up the programme by the end of January or February," Director of School Education P.T. Rudra Goud told The Hindu .
Mr. Goud had inked a memorandum of understanding with the foundation in 2018 for the supply of nutritious midday meals to over 50,000 students of 300 government schools.
The programme was delayed, he said, because the foundation was establishing a modernised central kitchen at Lawspet. The COVID-19 pandemic was also behind the hold-up.
Kodandarama Dasa, regional vice-president of Akshaya Patra Foundation, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, said the partly automated centralised kitchen was ready for commissioning. "Once the inaugural date is announced, we will roll out the programme." The foundation will add more items to the menu and will change the dishes according to the requirements of children. "We are planning to provide rice, 'sambar', 'poriyal', 'kottu' and curd. There will be no compromise on hygiene and nutrition."
The kitchen, constructed at a cost of around ₹15 crore and with the support of National Insurance Company and General Insurance Corporation, was utilised to serve food during the recent floods.
Around 25,000 food packets were served to the affected persons, said a worker at the kitchen.
The kitchen has automated vegetable- and rice-cleaning machines, cold-storage rooms, storehouses, a separate area for cleaning utensils, a bio-gas facility, an organic waste composter and an effluent treatment plant.
In fact, the entry is through automated gates which will open only when a person completes a three-step process of hand sanitisation.
Around 20 vehicles, which will carry insulated food containers to schools, have arrived at the kitchen. The containers can maintain the temperature for more than 6 hours, the worker said.
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