Community Canteens: A way to nutritional security

One of the major challenges the world is facing right now is the lack of food security, which is leading to the deaths of millions. According to a study by ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition’ in 2018, every one in nine people is hungry all around the world, which is close to 821 million. It is said to be around 225 million in India alone are undernourished and the numbers are increasing every year. Food security comes with the availability of sufficient, healthy, nutritious food for all sections of people despite their socio-economic conditions.

Community Canteens (or sometimes called soup kitchens) are Nongovernment organizations (NGO) or government-funded organizations in which food is collectively prepared for a large group of people and is provided at very nominal prices or for free. The main motive behind this initiative is to address food security issues along with nutritional security to the vulnerable groups. This isn’t a new concept, it dates back to the 15th century when the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak dev Ji started Langar which runs in the Gurudwara which means community kitchen. There are a lot of community kitchens all around the world working to provide fresh, healthy meals to the needy for very cheap prices or for free like World Central Kitchen, Akshaya Patra, The Community Kitchens of Birmingham and many more.

The government of India has started community canteens all over India to raise the nutritional security of the country. Some of the known government-run community canteens are Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu, Annapurna canteens in Telangana, Deendayal canteens in Madhya Pradesh, Dal Bhat kendras in Odisha, Indira canteens in Kerala and Karnataka which provide nutritional and affordable meals for as low as Rs.5. Most of the migrant workers, laborers, homeless, and the underprivileged who cannot afford the three healthy meals a day are all helped through this heavily subsidized canteens run by the central or state government. The other brighter side of community canteens is, they also help bridge the gap between unemployment and food security along with sustainability and economic growth (higher demand for crops which leads to higher productivity).

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Image source: https://www.newindianexpress.com, An image of people standing before Annapurna canteen to get their meals in Hyderabad.

At the time of recession, natural calamities, or a pandemic like this, community canteens play a very vital role in maintaining harmony. Now when the country is fighting against the pandemic and an economic crisis the community canteens are preparing food for millions of migrant workers and all those stranded away from their homes. Community canteens in Kerala say that they have been distributing approximately 2.5 lakhs to 2.8 lakhs of food packets a day to the weaker sections, migrant workers and daily wage laborers who are worse hit by the pandemic, ensuring nobody starves. Not just government-funded bodies, NGOs like Akshaya Patra have played a keen role by serving more than 6.3 crore meals to students and their families during the lockdown.

Community kitchens are implemented for the betterment of public health and social welfare of the poor and working-class population with nutritional values through sustainability and cost-effectiveness. We can only dream about eradicating hunger from the world but community canteens are playing a pivotal role in achieving this feat.

Contributed By- Vishitha Reddy, Content Writer @ Mitti Ke Rang

At Mitti Ke Rang, we started with a COVID-19 community support fundraising, as an emergency response to provide a safety net to families. This will help them survive in the lockdown period. We aim to directly support these families by providing a minimum wage, through transferring the same into their accounts or partner with local NGO, Organisation, Fellow, or a Volunteer and support them with groceries.

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A social venture dedicated to empowering widows and single women to overcome poverty and dependency. https://mittikerang.myshopify.com

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