One of the integral components of our holistic approach towards education is providing healthy, nutritious meals for all pupils at Hunar Ghar. It is all the more important in a village like Bakhel, where 61% of children are malnourished, resulting in stunted growth and wasting (as shown in our Early Childhood Development Study). In this blog, we give you an insight into the kitchen at Hunar Ghar and the people involved in running it, who through their dedication and effort, prepare and serve nearly 900 meals a day…
Since Hunar Ghar first opened its doors, more than 200,000 school lunches have been served. Last year, we also started a breakfast club to make sure that children do not start their school day with an empty stomach. It might seem impossible, but at present around 900 meals are being served at Hunar Ghar every day, prepared in our extremely modest kitchen with three chulhas (earthen stoves) which run on firewood.
The staples are purchased in bulk from the local market of Swaroopganj, a town 30km away from Bakhel, where we have an office. Vegetables and fruits are purchased on a daily basis from Swaroopganj itself. Imrana, our Administrative Manager, says: “Vendors at Swaroopganj usually deal in cash payments and do not provide proper bills. Paying directly in their bank accounts was an alien concept for them. However, we were persistent and we were gradually able to gain their trust when they got to know about our work. Now we make monthly payments directly into their accounts.”
A pre-determined menu is followed to prepare breakfast and lunch. This menu is designed to ensure that children receive a balanced and nutritious diet prepared from what is locally available.
Our kitchen team consists of 8 members – Haldi, Lila, Ranki, Sakuri, Sawdi, Shanti, Sharda and Suresh, who cook, carry water and serve the meals to children. Vishnu Priya, one of our health and community team members shares: “These kitchen team members come from different hamlets of Bakhel. Initially, some of the older members found it difficult to adjust with the new members who came from different hamlets. But, now they have gradually formed a strong bond with each other and consider the entire Hunar Ghar team a family.”
We have recently provided them with uniforms to increase their unity and develop a sense of professionalism.
The quality of the meals served has increased following the appointment of Suresh, our head cook (shown in the picture above). He comes with experience of running his own mobile restaurant. Imrana says: “The taste of food, its presentation and quality has improved. The ingredients used in meals are the same, but food tastes much better now.”
With 412 children currently enrolled at Hunar Ghar and plans for the school intake to increase until all children in the community are at school, we urgently need to renovate and expand our kitchen. We are very grateful to OneKindAct which has provided us with a grant to expand and improve our kitchen facilities. A major donor has also kindly offered to help with the cost of this project. Plans are underway for building the first kitchen in Bakhel to have proper tiled work surfaces which can be easily wiped clean, gas cooking facilities, a kitchen sink and refrigeration units – so we won’t need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables every day.
We are also very touched that another major donor has offered to provide Hunar Ghar with all our dried food needs. With over 500 pupils expected from July this year, this means providing around two tons of dried food per month!
You can get involved too. Every penny counts – why not think about how much you have spent on your lunch and breakfast today and donate that amount? Rest assured it will cover the cost of nutritious and tasty meals for children who otherwise would be going hungry. Find out more about what your donation could cover on our project page.