Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Donor's and Teachers’ initiative led to mid-day meals at Isha Vidhya

A large section of Isha Vidhya students belong to the weaker sections of rural society. Their parents are daily wage earners who leave home early for the day’s work. So they mainly cook only in the night. A portion of this is also kept aside as next day’s breakfast and packed as lunch for the children too.

In many of our schools, teachers noticed that the lunch brought in by many students got spoilt by the lunch break. Given the hot climate of Tamil Nadu where all the Isha Vidhya Schools are located, the teachers figured that the meal cooked the day before could not survive the heat and thus got spoilt by lunch time next day.

They also noticed that quite a few students especially those from financially weak background, brought lunches which consisted mostly of rice mixed with a gravy and just a green chilly or a pickle as side dish. There were no vegetables or proteins and therefore bereft of nutrition.

They brought it to the notice of school management as they knew that this insufficient nutrition was the main cause of malnutrition among the students. During the annual health checkups held in all schoola, doctors diagnosed that about 70% of Isha Vidhya students were suffering from anemia or malnutrition. This was of great concern to all as it is a well known fact that malnourishment in young children causes slow development of brain and body. Malnourishment also depresses grasping, retaining and analyzing abilities of young children.

It became clear that nutritious meals cooked in the school would be the only solution. It was also clear that the same would have to be subsidized heavily to make it affordable to the targeted students. While the school management was trying to find funding resources for both, one of our long standing volunteers from UK, who had come to know about it, contacted us. Deeply moved by the plight of these children, he found a donor who was willing to sponsor construction and equipping of a kitchen in each of the seven Isha Vidhya schools and another donor who subsidized more than 50% of the meals for the first year. The Donor for the kitchens, had just one condition. He wanted the kitchens to be completed and become operational by the start of the new academic session which was less than 2 months away. Our team was so charged by the donor’s generosity and keenness to help that they rose to the challenge and completed all the seven kitchens although with a slight delay of 15 days.

Each noon-meal is a well balanced one consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and micronutrients. 75% of the cost is subsidized by the school which in turn is supported by donors. Till last year, cost to children was Rs 4 per meal, which had to be increased to Rs 5 this year to meet the increasing cost of raw material and salaries to kitchen staff. For many children, this is perhaps the only good meal that they have in the day.

And thus mid-day meals started in Isha Vidhya.

(Appeal: You can sponsor noon meals for Isha Vidhya children for Rs. 3000 per child per year. Or you could sponsor the food for all children in one school for Rs. 10000/ day in any school of your choice on any day or occasion of your choice. Our schools are located in the districts of Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Nagarcoil, Tuticorin, Cuddalore and Villupuram. Please write in to us at donations@ishavidhya.org)

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