No child should go hungry

The perfect lunch box

Children have a hunger for life – a hunger to learn and explore. But they also have a real physical hunger that needs to be fed with food, real food that is nutritious, healthy and good. One of the most challenging tasks a mother faces is packing the child’s lunch box. Imagine getting up at the crack of dawn and among other chores making a lunch box that is nutritious and tasty; day after day and year after year. Luckily for me, I had a mother who rose to the challenge and my brother and I were known for our legendary lunch boxes packed for us – bursting with goodness and taste, so flavourful that it was hard for the class to concentrate while aromatic flavours wafted round the class while old Mr. Rao droned on and on about Quadratic Equations. Opening the lunch box was like a magic trick – we never knew what to expect  prawn biryani , or chicken pullao,  mutton curry rice or bread rolls. Sometimes we’d have fish cakes and sometimes we’d have kebabs but always there’d be some carbohydrate and protein. Vegetables were a must as were cut cucumber and carrots, a bowl of curd and some fresh fruit. We had noodles and wraps, stuffed parathas and plain old daal chawal. Every day was different because mum never knew what was going to be left over the night before . My lunches were legendary and I often ate my lunch before lunch and had to take another dabba to tide me through the rest of the day.

I was lucky to have inherited my mother’s innovative-ness in the kitchen because my children’s dabbas were much sought after in school. And my children often took two dabbas to school – one for their friends and one for themselves.

But there are millions of children who aren’t so lucky and leave both their hungers unfulfilled . They remain ignorant and unaware of what’s going on in the world. Is there a magic wand that can wish their hungers away?

Sadly there isn’t and with more mothers going off to work, a mummy to fill your lunch box will become rare very soon.

My father tells me that when they were little they used to have a hearty breakfast of good old daal chawal or bhaji poli before they went off to school which started at 10. This leisurely start to the day meant that their mother didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and that the children remained satiated till they returned from school around 4 in the evening. Then they had a decent tea before running off to play.

You don’t look vegetarian to me

It would seem then that the best way to tackle hunger in school is to have children come to school after lunch because Indian palates are hard to please. Institutionalized cooking has never succeeded in a culture like ours where belief defines every aspect of our lives. I remember giving a little boy standing outside a shop, the vegetable  roll that I had in my hand. A few minutes later I found him still begging so I asked him what happened to the roll I’d given him and he said it was Non Vegetarian. I asked him how he could tell when he hadn’t even tasted it. He told me ” well you don’t look the type who is a vegetarian

I would have thought that a hungry person would eat anything but obviously I was wrong.

When the Government steps in

But what if there is no food to eat at all at home? What does the child do then? The government has tried many  a mid-day meal scheme but this is not without its detractors – people who find the food unwholesome, badly cooked and even plain bad – with weevils or grain that has actually gone bad. Some schools work around this problem by  sending home the month’s rations which is self defeating because one never knows if the child really eats it.

So does this mean that there is no solution?

The simplest solution that comes to my mind is to enlist the help of caterers in the area. There are numerous hotels and small establishments which can always supply the basic daal chawal and subzi to the neighbourhood schools. This can be incentivised with a tax benefit so that it becomes a win-win situation for all.

And as for feeding hungry minds – there’s nothing like a great teacher. Teaching is a vocation, a passion, a desire to open a mind to explore. Sadly teachers too have stomachs to feed and unless there is an improvement in remuneration, good teachers are going to be hard to come by.


I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda



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