Sundargarh: Providing hygienic food at affordable prices to the general public while providing livelihoods for women – the ‘Utkal Kitchen’ initiative in Sundargarh derives a double benefit. This modern restaurant fully managed by Mission Shakti Women caters to the daily food needs of government officials and visitors to the block headquarters.
The first Utkal kitchen is operational in Kuarmunda block of Sundargarh district. The kitchen run by the members of Sai Shradha Women Self Help Group (WSHG) prepares breakfast, lunch, tea, coffee and snacks etc. for the customers. The women also prepare dinner according to demand. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Snacks like vada, aluchop, idli, upma etc. are served here; while at lunch, rice, dal, curry, fries, bhaja, saag, etc. and fish, chicken and eggs etc. are prepared here.
Utkal Kitchen, an initiative of Sundargarh District Administration to increase the livelihoods of WSHGs, operates under the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), Mission Shakti Department, Govt of Odisha. SHG members are trained to undertake such non-traditional businesses to connect them to various livelihood opportunities by expanding the scope of their activities.
Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation (OMBADC) financially supports the Utkal Kitchen Unit in Kuarmunda. The administration plans to open such units in the remaining 16 blocks with the support of the District Mineral Foundation, DMF Sundargarh.
“Previously, women in SHGs were limited to traditional jobs like making pickles, papads, badi, etc. But now they are engaged in various unconventional and semi-technical fields. The operation of Utkal Kitchen in Sundargarh district has created a new livelihood opportunity for women,” says District Rural Development Agency Project Manager, Shri Bhairab Singh Patel.
“Utkal Kitchen serves us hygienic and affordable food in a healthy environment. I come here to have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. SHG women are very friendly,” shares Rajendra Behera, a regular at Utkal cuisine.
Special training is provided to the women in the self-help group by the district OLM mechanism for the management of Utkal Kitchen. Emphasis is placed on hygienic preparation and hospitality.
“Before, we only made food for our families. But now we cook dishes for different people and we are very happy to serve them. The initiative has helped provide financial security for our families,” says Lily Sunani, President of Sai Shradha WSHG.
Various food items, snacks and baked goods produced by local WSHGs are sold at Utkal Kitchen. Likewise, the eggs produced at the poultry clusters in the block are supplied to this restaurant, thus establishing a link for the sale of various products of the local women.
Utkal Kitchen in Kuarmunda engages 8-10 WSHG members while serving 100-150 customers daily. Thus, with the creation of the 17 Utkal kitchens, more than 150 women will be guaranteed to earn a living and will affect 2,000 to 2,500 people every day.