Recently, on a scorching Sunday, after a long wait in a queue at Amma Canteen in Thiruverukadu, 52-year-old Shiv Yadav, a casual labourer, was surprised to see a new addition on his plate. The staff at the canteen served him a boiled egg along with the bowl of sambar rice. Shiv Yadav was surprised as it came free of cost, and the staff told him that they have been serving eggs as part of the meals since the lockdown began.

At a time when Amma Canteens are becoming frugal in what they serve, this one in the temple town of Thiruverukadu comes across as a glowing exception.

Credit for this goes to a long-time resident of Anna Nagar, R. Rajkumar, who has been sponsoring free eggs along with the meals at the Amma Canteen for the last two months.

“Most of the visitors to Amma Canteen are aged and sanitary workers. I thought of eggs as a perfect accompaniment as it could provide them with the required protein,” says the 49-year-old.

Rajkumar, who runs school bag making units in Manali and Jafferkhanpet, had the opportunity of interacting with sanitary workers and health staff at the Thiruverukadu municipality as he was part of an event where they distributed free masks and other protective gear.

“I distributed face masks and hand gloves that are made from my factories and soaps to 268 sanitary workers and residents in the neighbourhood,” he says.

One of the lessons from the interactions with them was that most of the frontline workers depend on the Amma Canteen in the neighbourhood for their daily food.

“Rajkumar is very supportive when it is comes to such welfare activities,” says S. Senthil Kumaran, Commissioner, Thiruverukadu Municipality.

While areas within the Greater Chennai Corporations limits have 407 Amma Canteens, at Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, they are present only at select places. Amma Canteens within the Chennai Corporation limits spend at least ₹ 17 lakh to provide food for visitors daily.

At Thiruverukadu, on an average, more than 500 persons visit the canteen every day. The canteen in the neighbourhood provides idlis for breakfast, sambar and curd rice for lunch and rotis for dinner.

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