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Kolkata schools adopt garden-to-plate mantra, fortify midday meals | Kolkata News – Times of India

KOLKATA: A growing number of schools in the city are setting up gardens on their premises to produce vegetables that are then being used to rustle up an extra dish to be served along with midday meals. The gardens are being enthusiastically tended by students under the guidance of their teachers, who say the activity is a great learning process for the children.
Aware of the growing trend, the state government recently sanctioned Rs 9.7 crore for schools that have set up kitchen gardens. A total of 19,535 state-run schools across Bengal have received Rs 5,000 each for the maintenance of their gardens.
This winter has seen a rich harvest of seasonal vegetables like cabbage, beans, carrots, cauliflowers, tomatoes and chillies in at least a dozen city schools. Some of the schools have even produced exotic varieties like broccolis, coloured cauliflowers and mushrooms along with the regular greens.
Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapith had set up a garden just before Covid struck and maintained it even during the lockdown. Besides vegetables, they are now growing mushrooms. “We prepare mushroom and soybean curry till stocks last and try to serve this dish twice a week. We follow the menu provided by the government but have added this special dish to add more protein to the students’ diet to boost growth,” said headmistress Sarbani Sen.
‘Kitchen gardens send positive msg to students, help them take care of plants’
Children’s Welfare Association School has produced cabbage, purple and orange cauliflowers, broccolis, carrots, beans and other green vegetables all through this winter. “We are growing seasonal green vegetables on the rooftop and our girls are taking care of the garden. Whatever we produce is not sufficient for the entire school so we try to serve a special dish prepared with our own vegetables to at least one class each day,” said headmistress Sarbari Sengupta.
Behala Girls School has set up a kitchen garden on its roof though it doesn’t have a midday meal kitchen and gets meals from a community one. “We are doing this to teach our students how to take care of plants. We have produced tomatoes, brinjals, chillies and gourds but in a small quantities,” said headmistress Kaberi Chatterjee.
Since January 2023, chicken and fruits have been included in midday meals in staterun schools and around Rs 372 crore has been allocated under PM Poshan scheme to provide additional nutrition to kids till April 23. A central team that visited several schools in Bengal discussed with officials the need to empower schools to produce food for their own use. “Most Kolkata schools get midday meals from a community kitchen, but some have set up kitchen gardens to spread a positive message among students,” a state official said.

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