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COMMUNITY CANTEENS 2.0

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

PMGKAY and Reaching out concerns

  • Prime Minister announced an extension to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana and implementation of the ‘One Nation, One Ration’ (ONOR) scheme to improve access to subsidised grains for migrant workers.
  • Lack of access to food drove millions of them to their native villages during the lockdown period.
  • While these measures are welcome, they may fall short of reaching all sections of this vulnerable population. Most migrant workers do not live with families; many do not cook their meals, and instead, a significant number rely on roadside vendors and dhabas. Without access to cooking arrangement or fuel, only subsidised grains are not a sufficient solution to ensure nourishment.

Proposed solution for Nutritional security: Community Canteens

  • More than 10 States have run community canteens, including Amma Canteens in Tamil Nadu and Indira Canteens in Karnataka.
  • However, a drawback is that most of these canteens rely on continuous government support for their sustenance as meals are usually priced unsustainably low at ₹5-10 per plate.

Way Forward for Right Implementation of Community Canteens

  • However, our preliminary analysis suggests that such canteens could be operationally self-sustainable by pricing the nutritious meals at ₹15-20 per plate.
  • This would still be lower than what most dhabas and roadside vendors charge for a meal.
  • While the Central government should extend the initial capital support, the implementation at the State level should be led by urban local bodies or municipal corporations, in collaboration with private entities as service providers.

Jobs and growth with Community Canteens

  • 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.

Way Forward to capitalize on this opportunity

  • 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.
  • 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.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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