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How about green veggies from schools?

Kitchen gardens have mushroomed in local schools, with the produce used in midday meals and even distributed to pregnant women, writes Sudhir Suryawanshi

Published: 23rd January 2022 08:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd January 2022 09:59 AM   |  A+A-

Emphasise on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables than simple sugars.

Representational image

Express News Service

MAHARASHTRA: In Maharashtra, pre-primary schools run by the state government have started cultivating kitchen gardens at the back and front yards of their premises.

Staff being trained to cultivate kitchen
gardens from seeds of a variety of local
and indigenious fruits and vegetables
at the school premises

“Kitchen gardens are not only a source of nutritious greens, but also educate students about the variety of fruits and vegetables and their importance in our diet,” notes Pramod Mirkale, district programme officer, Women and Child Development (WCD), Aurangabad.

The state government started developing this kitchen garden concept two years ago. “Pre-primary schools, called anganwadis, have a lot of space around them. Villagers would use the open place to dump garbage or keep their cattle. It was a big headache to maintain and protect the open space for students,” recalls a pre-primary teacher.

The civic body WCD decided to utilise the space near pre-primary schools for a positive purpose. “After a discussion, the officials narrowed down to kitchen gardens at open premises of schools to prevent encroachment. We are happy that this idea has borne fruits now. Many anganwadis are coming forward to develop such kitchen gardens in their premises,” says Mirkale.

Introduced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), the initiative has issued guidelines for creating and maintaining kitchen gardens in all schools, both in rural and urban areas. The produce from these kitchen gardens is incorporated in the midday meal scheme that aims at serving healthy meals to boost the rate of school admissions.

Mirkale says the civic body also roped in the Reliance Foundation. “We provide hot midday meals to students. Many a time, the fresh and organic vegetables such as onion, potato, drum sticks and groundnuts, used in the khichdi served, are procured from the school’s kitchen garden,” informs the district programme officer from WCD.

Sunita Pardesi, supervisor of the kitchen garden programme, said that when the harvest is plentiful, the excess vegetables and fruits are distributed to pregnant women and underweight kids. “We want to stop malnourishment among children and improve the diet of pregnant women,” says Pardesi, adding the initiative has improved school attendance.

WCD, she says, also distributes seeds and plants to pre-primary school students. “We encourage them to use traditional and indigenous seeds. In this age of fast-food, many indigenous crops are vanishing.  We want to bring them back again from the kitchen garden to our kitchens.”

Mirkale says 90 per cent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of six. That’s why good diet is vital for the physical and mental development of this age group, he observes, adding, “We are arranging a workshop for parents on children’s food requirements and our kitchen garden concept.” Pardesi says the kitchen garden project has encouraged many parents to replicate this green model in their own backyard. 

However, anganwadis are facing many teething issues while creating kitchen gardens. “During summer vacations, when schools are closed, no one is available to look after the garden. At times, there is not enough water for the plants. We have sought help from local rural bodies to extend good water connection to the kitchen gardens or set up water tanks,” says Pardesi.

Pardesi says that at many places, it is difficult to protect open kitchen gardens. “Stray animals eat and damage crops and vegetable plants. We have erected compound walls or fences around such kitchen gardens with the help of NGOs and local bodies.” Nevertheless, the pluses of this initiative outnumber the problems, as Pardesi quickly adds that, “Our initiative has changed the eating habits of the people.”



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