To help set up vegetable gardens across 10,024 nutritious meal centres across Tamil Nadu, the Department of Elementary Education has called for students, school management committees and parents who are farmers to work with officials from the department of agriculture and horticulture who will help implement this initiative under the Puratchi Thalaivar MGR Nutritious Meal Programme.
Following an announcement in 2019 by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in the Assembly that vegetable gardens would be set up to aid nutritious meal centres across the State, the department of social welfare and nutritious meal programme had released a government order detailing this initiative.
Each nutritious meal centre, which provides children with their noon-meals, will be given ₹5,000 to help start these school vegetable gardens and the produce will be used in the meals that are made. The initiative also aims to ensure students have nutritionally rich food with the vegetables cultivated in these gardens.
“We have now asked district level education officials to ensure that schools are aware of the initiative and have asked them to start setting up these kitchen gardens. By involving children, this will give them hands-on experience on how to grow vegetables and will teach them the importance of farming and organic produce,” an official from the department of elementary education said. A circular to this effect was sent on February 5 to all districts.
While schools that have space on campus can allocate a small plot for the vegetable garden, schools with space constraints have been asked to set up roof-top gardens and based on this, they can choose the plants and trees to be cultivated.
“Students can be divided into groups of 8 or 12 and each group can be allocated a small section of the garden to be in-charge of. While the officials from the horticulture and agriculture department will help set up the vegetable gardens, students can be taught how to care for it and be involved in taking care of their vegetable patches,” the instructions issued for the initiative said.
Teachers and school management committees have been asked to help out the students if needed and schools have been asked to speak to the children about the vegetables harvested from the garden during the morning assembly before it is handed over to the nutritious meal centres.
Several government and government-aided schools across districts have independently started small vegetable gardens on their campuses over the last few years. Many teachers feel that this will encourage students to spend time outdoors as well as sensitise them towards organic produce and being environmentally conscious.