Leaping into the midday meal program

The mid day meal scheme, which was started in June 2002 in all the government schools, today faces an array of problems.

The scheme popularly known as “School Meal Programme,”involves provision of lunch free of cost to school-children on all working days. The key objective of the programme was to protect children from classroom hunger, increase school enrollment and attendance, address malnutrition and social empowerment through provision of employment to women.

According to various media reports, so far, over 12 crore children are covered under the scheme, which makes it the largest school lunch programme in the world. Allocation for this programme has been enhanced from Rs 3,010 crore in 2002 to Rs 9,300 crore in 2010-11.

Before the launch of the mid day meal scheme, the government had started the National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education where the Centre offered free of cost grains and states provided the costs of other ingredients, salaries and infrastructure.

Since most of the state governments were unwilling to commit budgetary resources, they just passed on the grains to the parents. This system was called provision of “dry rations.” On November 28, 2004, the Supreme Court of India gave a famous direction that made it mandatory for the state governments to provide cooked meals instead of “dry rations.” The direction was to be implemented from June 2002 but was violated by most of the states. With sustained pressure from the court, media and in particular from the Right to Food Campaign, more and more states started providing cooked meals.

Read the rest at Indias first Food and Beverage web site.

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