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Success story of AP's mid-day meal scheme
Prasad Nichenametla in Mahbubnagar | July 13, 2007 19:14 IST
It is lunch time in the government primary school in Dantanuru village in Kothakota mandal in Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.
S Yellamma and D Anjanamma can be seen serving hot rice and sambaar as children queue up for food. First serving, second serving and then the third� This is a scene common to most primary schools in the state.
The two women serving food in the kitchen are the most important part of the scene. They are a part of the Mahila Podupu Sanghams or the Women's Savings Groups in the state.
The state has 72,000 schools where mid-day meals are provided; in more than 50,000, these self-help groups have taken up the responsibility of cooking the mid-day meals.
The success of the meals is being attributed as much to the women's taste in cooking as to their linkage with the Sangham. Two members from one Podupu Sangham cook meals for around three months, followed by women from another Sangham in the village. All Sanghams take turns.
Once given the duty, the two women from a group take care of all the expenses like daal, cooking fuel, eggs and other ingredients like spices for the period they are in-charge. Rice is provided through fair-price shops.
"The principal, after taking the attendance in the morning, gives us the number of children for whom the food has to be cooked for the day and we prepare accordingly," Yellamma said.
"We also take care that the food is tasty and the children do not get bored with the same stuff. We change the curries daily. We give eggs once a week," she added.
Once the month is over, the bills incurred by the women are sent to the Mandal Education Officer, on whose approval the women are paid the specified amount. The school accounts show the mid-day meal bill amount for February 2007 as Rs 4,890, which was shared by the two women cooking meals at that time.
In Dantanuru, the two women cooks in the Upper Primary School are OBC. But Sarpanch C Srinivasulu says that even Scheduled Caste women were involved in the activity. It did not face any protest in the village.
The scheme has the full backing of the state government as an order was issued earlier that the Self-Help Groups should be preferred in the mid-day meal cooking, says Subramanyam, director, mid-day meals, Andhra Pradesh government.