Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gravity Force Kitchen

Dateline recently featured a story on school meals in India. I particularly enjoyed the piece on Akshaya Patra's "gravity force" kitchen in Vasanthapura. Hare Krishna restaurants have done a fine job of feeding hundreds of people each day in this city, and are now shipping school lunches to feed 820,000 pupils a day in India.

The kitchen is truly something upon which to marvel. Dry foods, like rice and dhal are kept in silos on the roof and are fed down chutes into cauldrons on a floor below. There is also a food chopping level, where the food is also chuted down to a lower level for cooking. The cooked meals are then chuted a further level where they are wheeled in trolleys to a waiting fleet of vehicles to be delivered to schools within a 50km radius of the kitchen. This kitchen is like something I might have invented in my wildest 10 year old dreams. Except I might've added some employee slides as well.

The school lunch program seems to have successfully combined centralized and individual solutions to feed thousands of hungry school kids. Not every school can employ staff to cook fresh lunches each day. Nonetheless 820,000 kids are eating fresh, healthy meals that would put most Australian school canteens to shame. As Madhu Pandit Das, a Hare Krishna Missionary says, "We definitely feel that there is a divine touch in the food that comes out of these kitchens."

I must say I'm spoiled at my workplace. All school lunches are freshly prepared, and 3 times a week we are served stew, pasta or shepherd's pie with damper and johnny cakes. For the very reasonable price of $2 a meal.

Image from Akshaya Patra: Unlimited Food for Education

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The New Adventure

Things have been very busy in the land of Pitchfork of late. There is a good three months of news to update. The year so far has been dominated by a new adventure for me, a full time teaching role in a school, working with teenagers to develop an indigenous bushfood community permaculture school garden. This project doesn't have a snappy name yet. I have acquired a sturdy, economical vehicle to take me 3 and a half hours away from my home to reside in the Murray Mallee four days a week.

The area we are developing is a dusty, dry, flat layer of schoolyard. There has been no significant rainfall in the area since I arrived on the 29th January. There was a good duststorm though.

The first challenge will be for me to find contour on this levelled ground. Once that is done, we will be putting in swales, and planting nitrogen fixing trees and fruit trees. I listened very closely to a talk Geoff Lawton gave recently and am well inspired by what can be grown in the desert in Jordan. Now, I have great hopes about what we can grow here.

So far, we have set up compost systems, a worm farm, compost bays and are well on the way to constructing a chook shed.