Geetha Lobo, Govt. Lower Primary School, Asokapuram
Mid-morning in Mysore and a blue Akshaya Patra truck can be seen pulling out of the gates of Government Higher Primary School in Ashokapuram, having just dropped off freshly cooked food for the children’s mid-day meal. Eager smiling faces are already peering out of classroom windows in anticipation of meal time, eyes directed towards a tree in the school yard. Three steel containers, one packed to the brim with hot rice, another containing sambar (a vegetable soup made with pulses) and a third filled with curd stand in the shade of that tree, the primary objects of the children’s gaze. Assistant Head Mistress Geetha Lobo, who teaches 5th, 6th and 7th grades at the school, explains just what the presence of those steel containers means to the children.
“The strength of the school has improved since food started being served here. Some children used to faint from hunger during assembly, but that’s no longer the case. Now, they attend classes regularly and they concentrate better during lessons,” she says.
What makes the food particularly special, according to her, is not just its quantity, but also the variety of its menu and flavor. “Even the sambar has a different taste everyday,” she adds. As noon time advances, the older children in the school prepare for the approaching meal, bringing out steel plates and distributing them amongst the younger ones. A fast forming line of students winds its way into the school yard from the only tap available in the corner of the compound. They wash their hands and plates before joining another queue, also rapidly forming, at the steel containers where food is being served.
“There is always more than enough food from Akshaya Patra for the children. In fact, whenever there is extra food available, they take it home for their families,” says Geetha.
Plates filled with rice, sambar and curd, all the children sit down in the dappled shade of the tree to eat their meal.