New India Manifesto – Chapter 16: National Food Bank of India (NFBI)
National Food Bank of India is an integrated nationalised food bank system aimed at serving the 140-crore population of India.
Importance of Foodbank
A. Increasing Nutritional Standards
Food banks will ensure that nutritious food is distributed throughout the nation. PDS Ration Shop distribution cannot guarantee whether families prepare nutritious food. Some families may have rice and rice water with salt as three meals which is not a nutritional standard. In U.P., a school served chapatti and salt as a mid-day meal in 2019, and such instances can also be avoided when there is a nationalized food bank.
B. Farmers Will Get the Actual Value of Farm Products
All this time, we have been looking at different ways to help farmers increase their income and failed miserably. The government has ensured MSP, KCC loans, subsidies, and PMKISAN for farmers. But none of these are helping to increase the market price of farm produce. Ration shops in India are the real cause of why farmers are not receiving the total value for their produce. Major food items are purchased at a minimal price and later distributed at a lower cost than a minimal price by ration shops. State and central governments are directly responsible for blocking products’ real value. Since the major food items have lower value, the associated farm products also have lower value. NFBI and WPES General Store will change this ecosystem. PDS shops and discounted distribution will not be available anymore. NFBI will purchase items at market price from farmers.
C. Excess Stock Clearance and Price Regulation
Farm produce that is excess in the market can be sold to food banks, and markets of those products can be stabilized.
D. Disaster Supply System
Food banks can ensure a proper mechanism to deliver food during natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods and cyclones. Farm products with extended shelf life in tins can be prepared and kept in storage facilities. For items with one-year shelf life, after six months, give them to the food bank and general stores and replace them with new ones.
E. Epidemic and Lockdown Management
In case of a COVID-19-like situation in future that is much more dangerous than the current one, food banks can feed the whole nation even under a total lockdown.
F. Introducing a New Culture
The food bank can create a new culture in which different new types of food items are appreciated by society and also increases the food business of other establishments.
G. Serving Various Institutions
Foodbanks can ensure meal distribution at schools, old age homes, and other institutions.
H. Serving the Unserved
Migrants were never part of benefits as they live in one state and their records are in another. One nation, one ration card was a game-changer. But the takers of these benefits are still less due to the illiteracy of migrants. NFBI will ensure that every single migrant is recognized and provided food.
Working Model of National Food Bank of India
Five thousand mega kitchens will be developed all over India that can handle food above 50,000 people daily. Ten thousand micro kitchens will be started in remote areas that can handle up to 1000 people daily.
Insulated vehicles will deliver food prepared by the kitchens to different EAC centres. Maximum delivery time should be 1 hour from when it is loaded to vehicles.
EAC Integration Centres
EAC Centres will distribute food to the beneficiaries. The one room on the ground floor of the EAC centre will be built exclusively to handle food. There will also be hot and cold food storage inside the room.
WPES – Food Voucher Distribution System
Food vouchers are distributed via WPES by the central/state government and are redeemed via EAC Integration centres. Vulnerable sections such as disabled and bedridden people are eligible for three meals daily via food vouchers. Senior citizens will also receive three meals a day. EAC centre will ensure home delivery if required. Students below 14 years in public schools will also receive two free meals via WPES at schools. There will be a facility for schools to redeem the voucher of students in bulk every day.
Five vouchers will be given to the general population weekly, which can be redeemed at EAC Centres. If it is not redeemed weekly, it will be cancelled and will not be carry forwarded to next week. Every week the quota will be refilled for every individual. Each individual should themselves redeem the voucher, and it cannot be transferred to another person. For vulnerable sections, such as bedridden people, food acceptance will be registered during the delivery time to their homes. Suppose a family member is allotted to a person for claiming their benefit. In that case, regular crosschecks should ensure that the beneficiary is the vulnerable person, not the family member.
Types of Food Distributed via National Food Bank of India
Three types of food should be prepared and distributed by food banks.
Cooked meals: The food should be consumed within 2 hours of distribution from EAC.
Ready-to-eat shorter shelf life items: It has an extended shelf life which ranges from 8 hours to 72 hours.
Container/box items with larger expiry: The shelf life for such products will be for many weeks or months.
Vegetarian food will be generally focused. In the case of non -vegetarian food, only eggs should be promoted for cooked meals. If other types of non-veg, such as fish and chicken, has demand, pickle can be provided alongside ready-to-eat items. Instant foods that use emerging technologies, such as ready-to-eat chicken biriyani, can be provided as it has more extensive expiry dates and better preservation technologies.
Ready-to-eat items are to increase daily meals from 2 to 3 and reduce the load of kitchens. Kitchens preparing two meals itself is challenging, and overburdening with three meals requires additional facilities. So, 3rd meal can be ready-to-eat items which will be provided along with the 2nd meal. For example, a small box with two fruits. Since EAC centres have refrigeration facilities, many such ready-to-eat items can be added. In case the kitchens have demand for cooking from external institutions such as college hostels, they can cook the three meals for them and earn extra income.
Cooked meals are provided only to pre-booked people and regularly avail via EAC. Ready-to-eat items will be delivered on a limited scale based on demand from each EAC. These are provided to people who fall under the territorial limits of EAC. A new tenant must register with EAC to get both options if they come within that limit. If a random person from another location visits another EAC far away from the person’s home, then they will only be provided container box items. If the random person stays for a few months and informs EAC about it, they can get all three options.
In large quantities, container/box items are provided in advance to EAC centres. Individuals can randomly cash out their vouchers at different EAC centres for these items. There is no booking required for these items. Examples are a packet of instant veg pulao and a small juice pack. Only items made by Indian companies will be distributed via EAC.
A small percentage of container items and ready-to-eat shorter shelf life will be procured by mega kitchens and micro kitchens from nearby food item manufacturers to promote local businesses. The remaining will be from other Indian companies or made by mega kitchens.
Living costs differ in different states, and the price for each meal can be fixed after considering the living costs. Therefore, each state will have different prices for meals.
For vulnerable sections, the delivery burden will also be borne by EAC centres. Since EACs are within the home range of citizens, delivery will be easy.
The richest person of India to the poorest person in India will have equal access to the food bank and its benefits. Redeeming or not is the personal choice of the individual. EAC centres will ensure that every citizen is provided benefits in their region.
Employment and Funding of National Food Bank of India
Thirty lakh individuals will get direct employment in NFBI. The employment includes the preparation and transportation of food.
Instead of food subsidies, midday meal schemes and ration shops, the funds can be used for national food banks. NFBI will replace the annual allocation of around 2 lakh crore for food grain subsidies. GST on the income of religions, GST revenue from other sectors, imposing GST on all income-earning businesses and increasing the income tax base can ensure the success of this system.
Special Note: This is the sixteenth chapter of the book New India Manifesto by Blessen T. Sam. The concepts introduced in this book are unique, and referencing the book and the author is appreciated. Support the hard work of the author to modernise India by purchasing a print copy of the book from Amazon or Flipkart.