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Photo credit www.washingtonpost.com
After first learning about the India school lunch poisoning that killed 23 children between the ages of 5-12, I thought please don't let this be true.
India has one of the largest free school lunch programs in the world feeding nearly 120 million children. State governments decide on menus and timings of the meals which cannot cost more than .03 cents to prepare.
Most cooks are paid no more than 40 rupees a day (.68 cents) and cannot make more than 1000 rupees a month or $17.
However, in an area where nearly HALF of all children suffer from malnutrition, the free midday meal remains one of the biggest incentives to sending children to school.
Even in light of this tragedy, the midday meal must remain.
The incident may have been an intentional act of malice perpetuated by Meena Kumari, the principal at the school. She purchased cooking oil containing large quantities of a very potent pesticide from a company operated by her husband.
Even after the cook questioned the apparence of the oil, Kumari insisted it be used. Even after the children complained that the food tasted bad, Kumari insisted that they eat.
Once the children began to vomit and loose consciousness, Kumari fled. After nine days on the run, she was arrested late last week.
She is claiming that she has been set up.
My heart breaks for the families of the children lost and for the two cooks. One tried to calm the children and reassure them that all was fine by eating the meal with them becoming violently ill as well. The other cook lost two of her three children.
She is quoted as saying "I am so horrified that I wouldn't grieve more if my only surviving child died." She also said she would never return to the school.
While much corruption remains, the good that the India midday meal provides does so much more. It is my sincere hope that the numerous branches of government can learn from this tragedy and begin to make changes to a highly mismanaged and corrupt system.
No ones says it better or with more conviction than Shweta Sharma, who is an Assistant Teacher at the Government Middle School in Deoghar City, Jharkhand.
Her entire piece can be found HERE and I urge you to read it.
- I'm a 41 year old (gasp) freelance writer, school cafeteria manager, wife and mother. I have three children and one anxious and overweight beagle. I use my blog to make others laugh, to share some cool crafts, to document my lunchlady adventures and to lament about the challenges faced by us all on the journey called life. Thanks for visiting. Please leave some crack...um...I meant some comments.