Once the heat waves were swept away to the east by the refreshing breeze, the sun looked down kindly on our glowing vegetable garden as we listened to the history of Chalakudy and its famous river, which flows musically along our cooking school in the midst of this fertile land. We are in the middle of a treasure where Nature embraces values of the golden past, and everything needs preserving for the future.
The aroma of old school meals journeyed a long way with me. The irony was that you had to be really poor to eat school lunches those days, yet that craving remained unfulfilled as I stepped into a local school to check what children eat during their lunch break these days. In America and England there have been a lot of talk about poor quality food in schools; equally it’s a long-standing problem in India too.
By inviting schools to participate in an awareness campaign, we interacted with teachers and offered to work together on their food issues. It was deplorable to apprehend the monthly budget of a child’s meal—only `8 per month, including milk and eggs once a week. Our kids eat insufficient and unbalanced meals during school hours, even in a village surrounded by agricultural land.
During the visit, our international guests happily gave language classes to children and suggested ways we could improve standards in the school. Even though we agreed to make a kitchen with some new facilities, the main concern was how to better the quality of meals with more nutritional balance. What could be more helpful is a thoughtful participation of parents to raise the spirit of schools to facilitate interesting variety of food.
It’s promising to hear that some school authorities in Kerala encourage farming in school yards and involve children in cultivation of vegetables. This has to gain more momentum to involve all schools and use every free space for growing vegetables.
With the combination of parent’s support and schools getting closer to self-sufficiency by growing their own food ingredients, our future generation will eat better during school hours and grow in a healthier environment. We offer Rasa Gurukul as a training ground for such activities to all local schools, including cooking lessons for school cooks.
In modern families where both parents work, logically children’s upbringing is a challenge and many people find it hard to feed their children fresh food. No wonder, the bakery business has flourished everywhere by preparing cheap ready meals and sweet snacks to fill the gap. It’s not a healthy sign for the future of our children, families and the country. We need to be aware of the importance of a balanced diet and work together as children are the most important wealth of our country. They may not evaluate or complain about the unhealthy food they are forced to eat, but we shouldn’t let our opportunity slip away to take control of their life, at least during the school age.
Fresh and healthy food is one complete solution to a child’s magical growth in this world—it will enhance his/ her mental and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, the child doesn’t know the importance of all this; it’s left to the parents, teachers and society to take up that responsibly, if we care about a better future for them.
(The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants)