Read the full article in The Hindu by Abhishek Jain and Shanal Pradhan are researchers at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water; Photo Credit : K Murali Kumar
Community canteens could also contribute to jobs, growth and sustainability. The 60,000 canteens, each serving about 500 beneficiaries on average, would generate more than 1.2 million jobs to serve 90 million meals a day. These canteens would also help bridge the nourishment gap among poor urban workers. Further, the government should leverage community canteens to shift diets and agriculture production towards more sustainable and sustainably harvested food crops. These canteens must incorporate low-cost yet nutritious and environmentally sustainable food items in the plate — bringing in coarse grains such as millets and sorghum into the dietary patterns. These canteens would create the demand signals for the farmers to diversify their crops and focus on sustainably harvested produce.
Under extreme circumstances, the lack of access to food is a matter of survival. But even in regular times, access to nutritious food is essential. Pandemic or not, access to affordable and safe food should not be an uncertainty for any section of the society. A renewed approach to community canteens would not only achieve nutritional security for migrant workers but would also create new jobs, save fiscal resources, support economic growth and promote sustainable diets and agriculture.