GEAR Canteen

In the interest of the nourishment and nutrition of our GEAR cubs, last year the canteen conducted a few trials of incorporating healthier and organic alternatives to what is usually provided. One such way we did this is by growing some of our own produce. The tomatoes, lemons, palak, jackfruit, okra, snake gourd, and green chillies used in the canteen are mostly school-grown.

From the beginning of this academic year we plan to implement a lot more changes as part of our initiative “The Miracle Brain Project”, which aims to promote mental and physical health through the consumption of healthier food.

 

We would like to work together with you, our parents, to ensure we have a school- wide acceptance of this initiative. Specifically, we would like your assistance as we  wage a ‘War on Whites’ as the first step in our Miracle Brain Project. There are several “white” ingredients that are a staple in every kitchen, but are more detrimental than beneficial to one’s health, which is why we plan to replace these ingredients with much healthier alternatives. On account of the challenges we’ll face to get our children to adjust to this change, we would appreciate it if parents could adopt some of these changes at home as well.

 

A small example to help you relate to the challenge we face; we introduced Whole Wheat Bread a couple of times as an alternative to White Sandwich Bread. Unfortunately we saw a lot of food going to waste and children not eating the sandwiches offered.  Our canteen staff, who determine the quality of their food by the children’s acceptance of it, recommended that we continue with white bread as the children enjoyed it more. Please find below a few basic reasons why we are not going to  incorporate the following “white” ingredients into our food. We request parents to help your child/ren and family get accustomed to these healthier alternatives.

Refined sugar: Nutritionists describe sugar as something with “empty” calories. This means that refined sugar is stripped of its natural vitamins and minerals and what remains is only pure refined carbohydrates. Due to this, ingesting sugar is harmful as it drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demands that digestion, detoxification and elimination make upon one’s entire system.

At GEAR we will only be using Jaggery and its powder and organically harvested Honey as sweetening agents. This would require a small shift at the home front as well with the advantages far outweighing the inconvenience of not using Refined Sugar. There is a very apt documentary to watch along with your child/ren on how seriously this war on Sugar has to be taken, the trailer of which can be found above.

There is also an article which elucidates all the problems with refined sugar.

 

Table salt : Salt not only enhances taste, but is an element that every cell in our body requires. But what type of salt are we feeding our bodies? “Table Salt” or “Refined salt” is a chemically manufactured form of what naturally occurs as rock, crystal, or sea salt. Table salt or iodized salt, merely mimics the taste of these elements without providing any of the needed minerals. Take the colour of salt for example; naturally occurring salts are usually not white in colour. The salt commonly available in supermarkets and in restaurants is white, because it has been bleached to look that way. Also, due to the industrialization process of harvesting and packaging, salt is usually contaminated with glass and sand.

Due to the toxins it contains, table salt is particularly hard on both the circulatory system and nervous system. It also wreaks havoc on the delicate balance of the lymph system in the body. This salt is also highly addictive, as the more the body becomes used to the high levels of fake sodium, the more it craves it.

Healthier alternatives to table salt are rock salt, Himalayan salt or sea salt, which are what we shall be using in our canteen.

For more information, please click here.

Flour (Maida) : By now you must have understood that we are trying to cut down on overly processed foods that are depleted of their natural strengths and have added chemicals and preservatives to them. Milled Flour gets added to this list. Industrial Milling of grains ironically eliminates the parts of the wheat kernel that are the richest in proteins and vitamins.

 

To combat this, we are trying to source wheat from farms and have it milled directly, preferably in a cold stone mill. We would appreciate some help with respect to identifying farms and millers. If you have any leads with respect to this area, please email us at canteen@gear.ac.in

 

White Rice: We are all well aware that red rice or brown rice are much healthier alternatives than the white rice we consume daily. The only reason we stick to white rice is because of the taste, even though polished white rice has reduced nutritional value. Rajamundi rice seems to be a healthy alternative, as it is a red rice packed full of nutrients and antioxidants and is also known to be tasty.

 

Milk: The Dairy industry is involved in raising cows to produce as much milk as possible. This means that they inject cows with antibiotics and growth hormones, which increase the levels of milk that a cow would have naturally produced. This is not only  inhumane treatment of animals, but also causes a host of other problems. This method decreases the nutritional value of milk, and indirectly provides children with growth hormones rather than nutrients. It also helps develop an antibiotic resistance within individuals who consume this milk and their milk products.

To read more about this issue, please click here

To combat this, we are in contact with an organic milk farm which does not inject their cows with antibiotics or growth hormones, and feeds their cows using organic farming practices. We will also be serving this milk in the canteen with Ragi Malt rather than the alternative of chocolate or ready-made mixes which are usually packed full of sugar.

 

This War on Whites is one aspect of our “Miracle Brain Project”. Some other goals and aims of this project are:

  • To rethink breakfast. We plan to incorporate green gram (pesarattu) dosa, broken wheat upma etc., into our standard meals.
  • To be more nutty. Nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts are known as ‘Brain Food’ because they help improve cognitive functioning. We plan to use more of these nuts in the salads and snacks that we provide.
  • To use all parts of a vegetable. This involves complete root-to-stalk utilization of a vegetable. For example,we would use ridge gourd skin for chutney in the morning and use the flesh for sambhar during lunch.
  • To contact nutritionists and engage their expertise in finding healthy as well as tasty recipes.
  • To make our own curd and paneer in the future. (Using the organic milk.)
  • To eventually bake our own whole grain bread.

We will continue to reach out to you with more details on the Miracle Brain Project and how you could contribute to helping us serve food with high nutritional value. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, contacts for vendors or interesting and healthy recipes, please email us at canteen@gear.ac.in. We are looking for support from our parent community in making this change. We will be implementing the discussed points in a phased manner throughout this coming academic year.