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Despite the queries raised over the quality of the midday meal served by the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (Iskcon) to the government schools in and around Tirupati, the demand for it seems to be growing, as the VVIP constituency of Kuppam has requested it to extend its scheme to the segment.

Iskcon has been serving meals to 50,000 students in 10 mandals of Chittoor district ever since the government handed over the task to it in 2004.

This includes students of seven schools run by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). Under the banner of Iskcon Food Relief Foundation (IFRF), the mammoth kitchens in Tirupati and Chinnagottigallu prepare meals for 35,000 and 15,000 children respectively.

In tune with its rigorous norms and food practices, Iskcon does not use onion, garlic and egg in the food. The rural palate that salivates for spicy food apparently did not like the idea and complaints of ‘unpalatable food’ arose from rural schools.

“The use of onion and garlic in food triggers passionate feelings like anger, lust and greed. Hence we consciously avoid them,” says Madhugopal Haridas, who heads the Iskcon’s midday meal and catering section.

Though buttermilk is not mandated, it is served every alternate day, until it became a burden recently due to the piling up of bills receivable from the state government.

Caught in dilemma

“The education officials want us to stick to the menu, but the students like the variety we serve. We are caught in between. Instead of eggs, we serve bananas and chikky, which are equally rich in calories. The complaints are made by some vested interests trying to defame us,” clarifies Leela Parayana Das, Iskcon’s public relations officer in Tirupati.

Meanwhile, Kuppam Area Development Authority (KADA) Special Officer Syam Sundar recently requested Iskcon to launch the midday meal scheme in Kuppam and even allotted a building at Thummisi village. The Iskcon management is undecided yet, keeping in view the ‘unpalatable’ approach taken by the officials towards them.