The Amma Canteen, a delivery system to provide urban food security in Tamil Nadu, has become an effective mechanism in reaching the needy during lockdown. This can be seen through the functioning of the twelve amma canteens in Madurai.
Food is served at specific time slots, except dinner. Migrants from North India usually benefit from this canteen scheme. A number of people from nearby villages who come to Madurai on foot to purchase vegetables in the morning also have their breakfast there. A register to record the names of the beneficiaries, with their places of original residence is maintained by the canteens.
From policemen, municipal workers to people from the media are having their breakfast in these canteens. Food is made freely available in the canteen since the lockdown began. A donation box is kept in the canteens for people to contribute. The boxes are opened in the respective municipal offices. Approximately 650 plates of each food item are prepared for lunch as well. A person can choose to have all three by waiting in different lines.
Dinner is not served in Amma Canteens during regular times. The canteens began serving sambar rice between 6.30-7.30 pm when the lockdown began, for the benefit of migrant workers. Leftover food is served to late comers to the canteen. Hand sanitizers are also provided in the canteens to ensure good hand washing.
The Amma Canteen system, in short, has ensured urban food security and is a boon to migrants during lockdown. There are, thus, unexpected but pleasant benefits from this scheme.
A delivery system with minimum leakages has to be evolved for the benefits of the scheme to reach the target group.
This measure would not only help migrant workers but also provide employment to workers who remained unemployed since the lockdown came into effect.