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The Hindu
The Hindu
R. Rajaram

Three noon-meal centres in Pudukottai district bag ISO certification

Noon-meal centres at three government schools in Pudukottai district have bagged ISO 9001:2015 certification for complying with Quality Management System in providing nutritious meals to students.

The three centres — at the 66-year-old Dharmarajapillai Municipal Primary School in Pudukottai Town, and at the Panchayat Union Middle School at Kunnandarkovil Onangudi respectively — received the certification from the Chennai-based Quest Certification (Private) Limited. Collector I.S. Mercy Ramya presented the certificates to the respective noon-meal organisers of the centres on Tuesday.

This is the first time that noon-meal centres in Pudukottai district have bagged the ISO certification, after complying with a set of norms laid down by the certifying agency and suggestions put forth by an official of the agency during a series of inspections that were carried out by him since 2021, said sources.

While the centre at the Dharmarajapillai Municipal Primary School provides nutritious meal every day to 31 students, those at the Panchayat Union Middle Schools in Kunnandarkoil and Onangudi cater to the daily meal requirements of 104 and 120 students respectively. Pudukottai district accounts for as many as 1,672 noon-meal centres, of which 1,398 are main centres and the remaining are sub-centres, feeding over 1.5 lakh school students every day. The three centres were identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Women Empowerment to put in place necessary paraphernalia and quality systems, as advised by the certifying agency, to bag the ISO certification so that they can become a model for the other centres in the district, said an official from the Department. A Lead Assessor of the certifying agency inspected the three centres on various occasions since 2021, and spelled out the norms to be followed for the certification to noon-meal organisers, cooks and assistants. They were also trained at regular intervals, said B. Karthikeyan, Lead Assessor, Quest Certification.

“We follow a prescribed food chart daily, as per which nutritious meal is served to students in the afternoon,” said S. Syed Ali Fathima, the noon-meal organiser of the centre at the Dharmarajapillai Municipal Primary School. The school was opened by late Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in 1957, said the school headmistress R. Subbalakshmi.

Egg forms a daily part of the diet, which also includes ‘konda kadalai pulav’, keerai/karuveppilai rice, sambar rice, tamarind rice, tomato rice and vegetable biryani, said Ms. Fathima, who had been working at the centre for over nine years. Groceries and eggs supplied by the government are stocked at the centre.

Suggestions (for bagging the certification) were gradually incorporated by the noon-meal organisers. This included installing a window mesh to prevent insects from entering the store room, a fire extinguisher and a first aid box. The temperature at which the food had to be cooked and served, and washing of utensils and stainless steel plates using hot water, among others, were also specified and adhered to.

“We also told them to reduce the amount of salt and spices while preparing the meals,” Mr. Karthikeyan said, adding that he had assessed the quality of the food by tasting it before recommending the centres for the certification. The emphasis was more on serving safe food to the students, he said.

Plastics are completely avoided at the centre, said Ms. Fathima. The meal is tasted by the noon-meal organiser and the headmistress before being served to the students. The food sample is collected daily, she added.

“It is a matter of pride that our centre has bagged the ISO certification,” Ms. Fathima and Ms. Subbalakshmi feel. The certification, valid for three years, has put in place a quality system at the centre, Mr. Karthikeyan said.

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