New Delhi: In a bid to educate and encourage young children to improve their nutritional intake, the recent state turned Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has come up with an innovative plan. The J&K administration has decided to establish “school nutrition gardens” in all government-run schools of Jammu and Kashmir, which will also enable the use of fresh organic vegetables grown in the gardens for the preparation of mid-day meals for students.
With 12,252 schools in Jammu and 11,495 in Kashmir, J&K has about 23,747 government schools, which will now be home to nutrition gardens, with a secondary aim of involving children with nature, besides inculcating the knowledge about different kinds of vegetable plants among them. Dr Arun Manhas, Mission Director, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, J&K, told NDTV that their aim is to set up the gardens in at least 10,000 schools in this financial year. He further explained,
The vegetables grown in these gardens will be used to prepare mid-day meals which are served to students in schools under the Mid-day Meal Scheme. The idea behind this is to promote community participation and children interface with nature. We want to set up nutritional gardens in every government school in the UT, starting with at least 10,000 in this financial year itself.
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Dr. Manhas further said that the idea came from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, who are promoting the establishment of nutrition gardens in government schools.
It will help inculcate knowledge among children about nature and nutrition. Today, children can’t even differentiate between mango and apple trees. Our initiative, hopefully, will develop a habit among children to plant trees as well. It will also motivate and inspire the mid-day cooks-cum-helpers, who prepare the food, by incentivising their recipes. For example, we will plant coriander and mint leaves in the garden, so the workers will be encouraged to use the home-grown leaves to make chutneys and garnish other food items.
As part of the initiative, only organic vegetables will be grown in the school nutrition gardens and the school authorities will also be asked to avoid the use of any kind of fertilisers, Dr Manhas explained.
We have made a formal request from the HRD Ministry to provide some funds, anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per school, to help make this project a success smoothly.
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The Mission Director also informed NDTV that some of the cooks-cum-helpers, who prepare the mid-day meals in J&K’s government schools, would be provided specialised training at the Food Craft Institute to enhance their skills in cooking.
These helpers are getting a meagre honorarium of Rs 1,000 per month right now. These skills will also help them earn their livelihood outside the school by cooking food in other occasions like marriage functions, birthday parties and so on, Dr Manhas said.
Last year, Ministry of Human Resource Development directed all the schools in rural and urban areas to set up Nutrition Gardens or kitchen gardens in the school campus, as it will help in addressing issues such as malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among school children, the ministry had said.