Then there were houses that took on “vaarada oota” that is families would take on feeding couple of school going kids once a week. The kids would each at a particular house on a particular day and move on another the next. The families had a system so that the financial burden would be shared. The parent’s kids if they could afford it, thank the feeders in kind, but otherwise just bless them.
Then there were those that carried their lunch, and for those did not fit into any of these there were free lunches at the temples. These are called as prasadams, or blessings usually sponsored by the donations people made to the temple.
This system ensured that the children had a proper lunch and it also built bonds between people and built a community. somehow somewhere this system has died out.
I am come from the temple town of Udupi, where every temple has the concept of annadhana. Anyone can walk in there to eat.
Temples of Sringeri, Dharmasthala and many places even the small ones do have an entire time and space block for school kids to eat. The fare is nothing fancy, rice, dal, some vegetable usually locally grown non glamorous one, and a glass of chaas. Fair enough.
Gurudwaras up north have these facilities too.
Many small towns the school timings take to account the temple lunch hours. The problem with the temples in the south is that the NGO’s created various issues about the temple feeding the children. Like quality of food, there are accusations of segregation of children and anything that catches the fancy.
I really do not see, what is wrong with it. The government does have the midday meal courtesy UNISCEF but why get into something when the community has created something for itself?
As long as the children are provided with food, that is nutritious, and education to carry on with life and livelihood I think we have made a start.
If we as a community, can take responsibility of nurturing our community, in the long run we would have greater bonding between us, and it would also bring about tremendous emotional intelligence within the society. If ever I could envision Akshay Patra—be it the current NGO that tries to feed, or the one Draupadi owned I really look at it like a community kitchen.