ISKCON Food Relief’s New State-of-the-Art Kitchen to Feed 65,000 Children
In India, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF) has partnered with the Government of the state of Jharkhand and local Fortune 500 company Tata Steel to build a new centralized state-of-the-art kitchen, which will deliver nutritious, sanctified meals to 65,000 underprivileged school children in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawa districts.
The program is part of the Government of India’s Midday Meal Scheme, which aims to give poor children from slum and tribal areas better nutrition, improve their school attendance, and reduce the drop-out rate.
ISKCON first joined the effort in 2003, serving 2,500 school children from its Delhi temple every day. Today, IFRF serves over one million meals daily to underprivileged students in ten states—Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Maharashtra & Rajasthan.
ISKCON Food Relief Foundation already has twenty-four centralized kitchens in different states in India participating in the Midday Meal Scheme, and the new one in Jharkhand will be the twenty-fifth.
Chief Minister Munda reveals a plaque for the ISKCON project with TATA Steel managing director HM Nerurkar and Delhi Midday Meal Director Venu Madhava Dasa
The kitchen’s foundation stone was laid on July 10th by Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda and HM Nerurkar, the managing director of Tata Steel, which will be providing the infrastructure for the project. With an annual net profit of around $2.75 billion, the company is dedicated to serving its community and holds two-thirds of its equity in philanthropic trusts.
Construction has already begun on the 1.14-acre Midday Meal kitchen, which is expected to be fully functional within five months.
“It will be one of the most techno-savvy, modern kitchens around, with all the latest equipment for preparing and packing the meals,” says ISKCON Midday Meal national director Radha Krishna Dasa. “The cooking will be done using steam generators, automatic vegetable cutting machines, potato-peeling machines, and conveyor systems, while our stainless-steel cooking vessels will be capable of cooking 600 kilos of kichari in thirty minutes.”
ISKCON Midday Meal’s exhibition at the event
With ISKCON managing the project, schools can expect the high standards of cleanliness, nutrition, and taste that the society’s food is famous for, as well as unique benefits not considered by other organizations. For instance, all the food will be sanctified, and the consciousness of the cooks is a major concern—every one of them will be devotees of Krishna from the holy town of Mayapur.
Meanwhile all of the 125 staff members will be required to take a month-long training in New Delhi.
Sarvadarshi Dasa explains the ISKCON Midday Meal’s efforts to Chief Minister Munda
Cooking will start every day as early as midnight, while packing will begin at 5am. The food—cooked in steam to preserve nutrients—will be sealed in packets and transported to schools in pick-up vans, to reach them just before lunch break. Food grains will be provided by the Central Government, and an aid of 3 rupees and 2 paisa per meal per day will be given by the State Government.
“This ambitious project is directly linked to the future of the state,” said Chief Minister Arjun Munda, stressing the need for similar projects in all the district headquarters of Jharkhand. “It will ensure that children are getting education, and at the same time that they are getting nutritional and healthy food.”
Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda praises the Midday Meal project
Tata Steel managing director HM Nerurkar, meanwhile, commented: “Poverty deprives many underprivileged children from securing the benefits of education. Hunger obstructs education, as children are forced to drop out of schools and take up menial jobs. This Midday Meal Scheme has been designed to attract these underprivileged children to schools and also reduce the number of school-going children who drop out due to poverty and financial distress. Education will empower them to explore their potential and earn a decent living as responsible citizens of our country.”
“The effort will initially benefit 65,000 children in 238 schools in and around the cities of Jamshedpur, Adityapur and Gamharia,” adds Radha Krishna Dasa. “But that number is estimated to go up to 100,000 within the next two years.”
ISKCON’s Venu Madhava Dasa discusses the Midday Meal project
In the meantime, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation are not resting on their laurels. Five more kitchens are already in the planning stages—one of which will be constructed in partnership with IOC, one of the largest Oil and Gas Corporations in the world.
“It was ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s desire that no one within a 10-mile radius of an ISKCON center should go hungry,” Radha Krishna concludes. “The Midday Meal Scheme is a wonderful opportunity to fulfill his desire.”