Two Indian charities have brought their model for a super-kitchen, serving children thousands of meals a day, from the sub-continent to England so that it can help to tackle holiday hunger in London.
The kitchen – set up by the GMSP and Akshaya Patra foundations – opened in Watford this week.
It has started by preparing with hot food for children on free school meals in holiday clubs.
But now the charities are looking for schools to work with so that they can offer the same nutritious low-cost meals to pupils during term time.
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Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, Akshaya Patra UK chief executive, said: “We’ll be ready to work with schools from next spring and will be able to produce meals for 5,000 children in schools across the Watford and London area.
Tackling holiday hunger
“We’re inviting schools to join us for tours of our state-of-the-art, new kitchen. We can talk about the importance of healthy food and the science behind our cooking processes that mean we’re able to produce 5,000 meals packed full of nutrition and delivered to children every day.
“We’ll offer these tours virtually at first and then in person once Covid-19 restrictions have lifted.”
The kitchen is based on a concept that began in Bangalore and has expanded to cater for 1.8 million children in 19,000 schools in India every day.
The founders of the GMSP Foundation, Ramesh and Pratibha Sachdev, say it was “the magnitude of the holiday hunger issue in the UK”, highlighted by England footballer Marcus Rashford, that drove them to bring the kitchen model from India to the UK as a scalable solution to our country’s “growing child hunger crisis”.
The project wants to expand to working with schools during term time, collaborating with them, “rather than working as a traditional catering supplier”, with reducing waste and enhancing nutrition key goals.
The zero waste and self-sustaining kitchen model can serve everything from macaroni cheese with broccoli to Thai green curry with rice and uses lab-testing to check on nutritional content.
Dr Anant Jani, research fellow at the University of Oxford and an expert in value-based healthcare, said: “The UK cannot expect to have a healthy future if we leave our children undernourished.
“If we can provide access to and education around healthy, nutritious food at scale like GMSP and Akshaya Patra are intending, we will create a more equal society and a stronger UK where everyone benefits.”
The charities say the super-kitchen can either replace existing school meal services or act as a supplement and is planning to provide an after-school meal and snack service.
Schools will have to pay for the non-profit service. But the low costs have been highlighted, with meals costing no more than £3 a day including delivery, compared with average holiday club meal costs of £3.50 to £4.50.
Interested schools can contact Akshaya Patra here.