May 2019

Introduction of a meal distribution system

A team from Udaan, a collaboration between the Trusts and the Government of Maharashtra, ensure that patients eat well and with dignity by implementing a buffet system at the Regional Mental Hospital in Nagpur

Inmates at the Regional Mental Hospital Nagpur now decide their own portions

It is no secret that, often, patients suffering from mental illness are not treated with the humanity they deserve. At the Regional Mental Hospital Nagpur (RMHN), this was unfortunately true. Especially at meal times.

The ward attendants served with their hands and the food was literally thrown on the plates, causing a lot of wastage. Every plate had approximately the same amount of food, leaving the patients no choice with respect to quantity. Much food got wasted when some couldn’t finish what was on the plate; those who remained hungry fought for scraps from the discarded food.

The Udaan team, with its core principles rooted in the autonomy and dignity of individuals, decided to intervene. It wasn’t easy. Udaan recommended a buffet system, but was immediately met with resistance from the hospital authorities. Will the patients be able to help themselves? Will they know how much food to take? What if the food fell short? Will they be able to stand in a disciplined queue? What about the investment in purchasing long tables and large serving vessels?

One wouldn’t know until one tried.

The Udaan team managed to convince RMHN to do a test run – one in Ward No. 23 (women) and one in Ward No. 15 (men) and implemented a buffet system. It had to be closely monitored and the Udaan team had to implement this new system.

So far, it has worked. The patients have found their dignity and food is neither wasted nor depleted before everyone has eaten well.

Yet, there is another heartening source of encouragement. The words of Ms Kanchan Khanzode, Dietician, RMHN, one of the strongest initial naysayers of this initiative: “I am very happy with the new meal distribution system that has been initiated in the two wards as a pilot and I wish that this be scaled to the rest of the wards.”

There is still a long way to go.This story has been taken from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts Annual Report 2017-18