ISKCON midday meal scheme benefits 12,000 children daily
Most of the schools are located in slumsMenu comprises rice, sambar, curry and buttermilk
TIRUPATI: That serving the needy is the best form of serving the Lord has been proved beyond doubt by the midday meal scheme run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Started as a pilot project with 1,558 children in Tirupati rural in August 2005, the "Food for Life" scheme has grown by leaps and bounds now to benefit 12,000 children of 73 primary, upper primary and high schools run by the municipality, mandal/zilla parishad. Significantly, many of the schools are located in slums and dalitwadas, where poorest of the poor children study. The children are fed rice, sambar with dal, curry and buttermilk, besides sweet rice and banana once a week. The food is cooked in a hygienic environment, emptied into sealed containers and supplied to schools in cargo trucks. A child can eat as much as he/she wants .
It was in 1973 that the ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada initiated the scheme after witnessing the heart-rending scene of a group of children fighting with dogs over food. He vowed that no child within ten miles of ISKCON temple would go hungry. It is only in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Tirupati that food is served on such a large scale.
The scheme has also succeeded in improving attendance in schools. "There are instances of students taking Transfer Certificate and joining the schools where we provide meals," claims Revati Ramandas, head of the ISKCON's Tirupati centre. "We are flooded with food supply requests from schools and education officials," he adds. The ISKCON premises has a well-equipped kitchen where food is cooked with fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients. The society not only plans to include 15,000 more children in Tirupati, but is also keen on extending it to Rajahmundry, Vizag, Guntur and Vijayawada by next year.