IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Community canteens 2.0

21st July, 2020 Editorial


  • Need to introduce community canteen to mitigate the hunger crisis during pandemic.

Schemes in states:

  • 10 states have it. Famous one are: Indira Canteens in Karnataka and Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu.
  • Provide hot meals at highly subsidized rates.
  • Mostly engages local self-help groups in providing the facility.
  • Rely on budgetary support to meet the expenditure.

Needs of community canteens:

  • Can provide hot meals instead of the dry rations
  • Hygienic and affordable meals in urban areas.
  • Migrant workers do not cook food, as they do not live with the family. Canteens can fulfil the gap.

Arguments in favour of Community Canteens:

  • Achieve nutritional security for migrant workers
  • Avoid fiscal resources on spending on the One nation One card: Establishing community canteens for 300 million urban workers will require 27000 crores.
  • With pricing of the canteens food at Rs 15-20, will still be cheaper than the roadside dhabas.
  • After three years of investment, it will save around 4000 crores from annual food subsidy, as there will not be any need of One nation One card.
  • Generate jobs especially for the women. As Mostly, women are engaged in community canteens through self –help groups.
  • Has potential to shift diets and agriculture production towards more sustainably harvested food crops.
  • Create the demand signals for the farmers to diversify their crops.


  • Difficult to ensure targeting of the subsidy.
  • Will not cover the semi-urban areas, where many migrants stay due to cheap rent.
  • Issue of taste: North Indian Migrant workers may not prefer south Indian food. Canteen facility takes away the agency of choosing one food.
  • One Nation One Card relies on the already established and tried method of ration distribution through PDS. Community canteen will take time to scale up.

Geographical divide: Community canteens are successful in southern states, while northern states completely lack such type of method. There are less no of SHG to provide sustainable