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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 12 August, 2022

  • 8 Min Read

Mid-day Meal Scheme

Mid-day Meal Scheme

There is recent proof that children who receive eggs as part of midday meals have a considerable boost in their growth, according to a study commissioned by the Karnataka government.

Image source - Inshitsonindia

About the recent study

While the request to include additional districts in the scope of the mid-day meal or PM Poshan program is still pending, eggs are now supplied under this program in seven Karnataka districts.

More than 4,500 children in two districts were included.

Gain:

  • When compared to their counterparts who weren't offered eggs, girls in Class 8 gained up to 71% more weight.
  • According to the study, the introduction of eggs and, to a lesser extent, bananas led to improvements in children's Body Mass Index (BMI), which affected both boys and girls equally.

History of the scheme

The current iteration of the program dates back to 1995 and was renamed PM Poshan Shakti Nirman or PM Poshan in 2021.

Centralized initiative

  • On August 15 of that year, it was introduced as a centrally sponsored program in 2,408 blocks for pupils up to Class 5 and then extended to Class 8 in 2007.

Metropolitan Corporation of Madras

  • The former Madras Municipal Corporation took the initial step in providing meals for kids in the 1920s.

India after independence

  • Tamil Nadu was once more the innovator in India after Independence.
  • Kerala is the country's second state to offer school lunches.

The scale of the scheme

2013 National Food Security Act

  • According to the National Food Security Act of 2013, the program includes 11.80 crore children in Classes 1 through 8 (between the ages of 6 and 14) who attend 11.20 lakh government and government-aided schools as well as those administered by local organizations like the municipal corporations in Delhi (NFSA).

Finances allocated

  • The Center has set out Rs. 10,233 crores for the program in the Budget for 2022–2023; states are anticipated to invest Rs. 6,277 crores.

Legal entitlement of all school-going children

  • Through the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, and the Supreme Court's decision in People's Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India and Others, it is not simply a plan; it is a right granted to all school-going children in primary and upper primary schools (2001).

Aim

  • Preventing hunger in the classroom, boosting enrollment, attendance, and socialization, addressing malnutrition, and empowering women via work.

Coverage

  • Includes all public and private schools, madrasas, and mastabas that are funded by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Impact of the scheme

  • Children whose mothers had access to free school lunches had lower rates of stunting.
  • Stunting is characterized by low height for age, chronic dietary malnutrition, and recurrent illnesses.
  • Stunting typically starts before the age of two, and its effects are mostly permanent.
  • In places where the mid-program was put into place in 2005, the frequency of stunting was much lower.

Benefits that cross generations:

  • In comparison to girls who did not have access to the free lunches offered at government schools, their offspring had a higher ratio of height to age.
  • In India, more than one in three kids are stunted, or too short for their age, which is a sign of ongoing malnutrition.
  • Increasing early children's nutrition has been a common strategy in the fight against stunting, but nutritionists have long claimed that maternal

Issues associated with the scheme

  • A committee looking at National Education Policy 2020 claimed that serving meat and eggs at noon meals could result in lifestyle issues.
  • Many students who are vegetarians may be excluded from the serving of eggs.
  • Variations in supplemental nutrition: For instance, only 13 states and three UTs now offer eggs and bananas to vegetarians.
  • Cost concerns: Some states, like Arunachal Pradesh, perceive it to be expensive.
  • Dietary decisions: Due to regional variances, religious conservatism, and caste rigidities, dietary decisions are a hotly debated topic in India.
  • Reach is prioritized over food quantity or quality.
  • Health: There are numerous unreported instances of students reporting diarrhoea and other illnesses after eating this lunch. Due to their concerns about safety, parents and kids have chosen not to eat during these midday meals.
  • Corrupt actions being committed: In addition to finding financial mismanagement by the Education Ministry, the CAG's performance audit report on Mid-Day Meal also found that states had diverted cash totalling Rs 123.29 crore intended for the program.
  • Casteism still exists and is a bad example to follow. The Dalit and students from the backward classes are often forced to sit apart from the other students, and in other states, there have been reports of incidences where food was allegedly thrown at the Dalit students.
  • Implementation is flawed: Whether it's the meal menu or calorie consumption, proper rules are not always followed.

Way Forward

  • Alternative: To address these concerns, many states now offer fruits in place of eggs.
  • Years before such girls and young women become mothers, improvements in maternal height and education and nutrition must be made to ensure a healthy workforce in India.

Also, Read - Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

Source: The Indian Express


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