Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Free Breakfast Scheme,Healthy Children: Healthy Nation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various Schemes

Mains level : Malnutrition, under-nutrition and micro-nutrition.

Free breakfast schemeContext

  • Under the free breakfast scheme of Tamil Nadu Government, children in government schools from Class I to Class V will get nutritious breakfast provided in their schools every morning. The scheme is aimed at encouraging more children to continue to come to school and help prevent dropouts in primary level.

CM’s Breakfast Scheme

  • The scheme covers around 1.14 lakh students in 1,545 schools which include 417 municipal corporation schools, 163 municipality schools and 728 taluk and village panchayat-level schools.
  • The inauguration of the scheme marks an important milestone in the State’s history of providing free meals to school students.

What is the approach for breakfast scheme?

  • Morning Breakfast: Under the morning breakfast scheme, every student is to be provided a cooked meal of 150-500 grams breakfast with sambar with vegetables. With a budget outlay of Rs33.5 crore in the initial phase, the new scheme caters to 1,14,095 primary school students from1,545 government schools.
  • Micronutrients deficiency: School administration will serve hot breakfasts to schoolchildren by 8:30 am before their classes begin. Students will be served upma, kichadi or Pongal from Monday to Friday, while rava kesari or semiya kesari will be added to the menu on Fridays.The local millets available in the area will also be part of the menu for at least two days a week.
  • Aim of the scheme: The scheme mainly aims to help students attend school hunger free and improve their nutritional status.

Free breakfast schemeWhat do the Critics of the scheme argue?

  • Freebies: The scheme stands at the confluence of three socio-political developments: a fierce but murky political debate on freebies.
  • Mid-day meal scheme: There was no need to supplement the existing mid-day meal scheme. But going by the content of the scheme, it seems unlikely that it will bring any substantial or sustained improvements in the above mentioned aspects of nutrition, especially since T.N. is already doing well in this regard.
  • Populism: This is just a populist scheme by state government for vote bank politics.
  • Questionable outcomes: Though the scheme has the potential to ensure that children attend classes hunger free, reliable and representative data on what proportion of them attend school without having breakfast regularly is scarce. Though the State acknowledges that students tend to skip breakfast because of the school timing and their financial situation, it is important to identify which among these is the significant contributor. The present approach does not distinguish between the two.

What the Defenders of the scheme argue?

  • Positive outcomes: Studies from other countries suggest that free breakfast schemes might help increase educational outcomes through a likely increase in school attendance and improved concentration on studies.
  • On freebies: The freebie debate strategically deploys fiscal burden as a potent tool to possibly constrain States from discharging this responsibility.

Free breakfast schemeWhy feeding children in school is important?

  • Welfare state: The States have a responsibility to promote welfare and minimise inequalities in income as well as in facilities and opportunities among individuals and groups (Article38).
  • Global Food Security Index: The welfare responsibility of the States remains undiminished, especially since India is ranked 71out of 113 countries on the Global Food Security Index.
  • Global Hunger Index: India ranked 101 out of 116countries on the Global Hunger Index.
  • Human development index: 132 out of 191 countries on the Human Development Index. India’s mean years of schooling stood at just 6.7 years in 2020-21.
  • Inequality: Additionally, India has among the highest levels of inequality in education. This responds closely with the rising wealth inequality, as brought out by the recent Credit Suisse report.
  • Stunting and wasting: Malnourishment in children (stunting, wasting and underweight) under 5 years has reduced as per National family health survey-5 (2019-21) from 38.4% to 35.5%, 21.0% to 19.3% and 35.8% to 32.1% respectively as compared to NHFS-4 (2015-16). However present scenario is not good as compare to other developing nations in south Asia.

Free breakfast schemeWhat are the different Existing Scheme?

  • The Midday Meal Scheme: The Midday meal is a school meal programme in India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
  • The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres, Madrasa supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the ministry of labour.
  • Serving 120 million children in over 1.27 million schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres, the Midday Meal Scheme is the largest of its kind in the world.
  • PM-POSHAN: The name of the scheme has been changed to PM-POSHAN (Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman) Scheme, in September 2021, by MoE (Ministry of Education), which is nodal ministry for the scheme.
  • The Central Government also announced that an additional 24 lakh students receiving pre-primary education at government & government-aided schools would also be included under the scheme by 2022.


  • India’s spending in human development enhancing welfare schemes has been very dismal. There is an urgent need for implementing innovative and effective welfare schemes to address the disruptions caused by the pandemic in the education and nutrition sectors and strengthen these sectors.

Mains Question

Q.Malnutrition, under-nutrition and micro-nutrition requires a different approach. Distinguish and suggest the existing policy gaps to address them.

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