While the State government has been promoting low cost food joints (Amma Unavagam) in Chennai and other corporations across the State targetting the lower middle class people, the Tiruvannamalai district administration has taken the lead in establishing a ‘traditional food canteen’ at the collectorate, to promote healthy food habits at nominal cost.
The first-of-its kind canteen for traditional food was inaugurated by Collector Dr Vijay Pingle on Monday at a function.
The mouth-watering traditional food items made of small millets such as ragi, samai, thinai and varagu became a point of attraction for the visitors to the Collectorate as well as the government employees alike.
Joint Director of Agriculture Chakkravarthy, who is the nodal officer for the project, said the department had been organising awareness rallies at each of the blocks in the district on the importance of healthy food habits and the need for going back to traditional food items. Last month we had organised a district level seminar on traditional foods here in which food experts from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and the Krishi Vigyan Kendras from Tindivanam and Vellore had participated as resource persons. They explained how these food grains could be cultivated, their nutritional value and how to prepare value added products, he added.
Chakkravarthy said the Collector who presided over the seminar, had come up with the suggestion of starting a canteen with traditional food across the district. He also wanted the agriculture department to start one such canteen at the collectorate immediately. Accordingly the department swung into action and identified women Self Help Groups who could prepare healthy food items using the traditional grains. After a thorough screening an SHG attached to the Pudu Vazhvu Thittam was identified to run the canteen at the collectorate and a revolving fund of `99,000 was handed over to them to begin the operations.
The canteen functions during the office hours between 10 am and 5 pm. One can enjoy koozh, kanji, adai and puttu made of ragi, cumbu, thinai, varagu at a nominal cost ranging between `5 and `10 per bowl or cup, depending on the item. The SHG is procuring the raw materials such as ragi and samai locally (which are grown in the Jawadhu hills in about 8,000 ha) and other grains such as thinai and varagu from Kallakurichi area in the neighbouring Villupuram district.
The group is also planning to introduce more items and varieties in the due course of time.
Steps would be taken to expand the network of traditional food joints across the district besides motivating the farmers to migrate to the cultivation of traditional crops, said Chakkravarthy. The Collectorate also houses a regular canteen that offers rice-based food items and an Aavin booth.