From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Mid-day meal scheme
Mains level : Nutrition impact of covid on children
A parliamentarian has recently asked the government to re-start the mid-day meals in reopening schools and to ensure that the meals provided are cooked and nutritious.
What is the Mid-Day Meal Scheme?
- The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal program designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
- It was launched in the year 1995.
- It supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in:
- Government, government aided, local body schools
- Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
- Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and
- National Child Labour Project schools run by the ministry of labour
- The Scheme has a legal backing under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Objective: To enhance the enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improve nutritional levels among school going children studying in Classes I to VIII
History of the scheme
- In 1925, a Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced for disadvantaged children in Madras Municipal Corporation.
- By the mid-1980s three States viz. Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the UT of Pondicherry had universalized a same scheme with their own resources for children studying at the primary stage.
- In 2001, the Supreme Court asked all state governments to begin this programme in their schools within 6 months.
Features: Calorie approach
- Primary (1-5) and upper primary (6-8) schoolchildren are currently entitled to 100 grams and 150 grams of food grains per working day each.
- It also include adequate quantities of micronutrients like iron, folic acid, Vitamin-A, etc.
- The calorific value of a mid-day meal at various stages has been fixed at a minimum:
Why in news?
- The flagship report of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 estimated that as of April 2020 369 million children globally were losing out on school meals, a bulk of whom were in India.
- As many as 116 million children — actually, 116 million hungry children — is the number of children impacted due to indefinite school closure during the pandemic.
Why discuss it now?
- The recent Global Hunger Index (GHI) report for 2020 ranks India at 94 out of 107 countries and in the category ‘serious’, behind our neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
- The index is a combination of indicators of undernutrition in the population and wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age), and mortality in children below five years of age.
What measures were resorted to counter this?
- In March and April 2020 the GoI had announced that the usual hot-cooked mid-day meal or an equivalent food security allowance/dry ration would be provided to all eligible school-going children even during vacation.
- Nearly three months into this decision, States were still struggling to implement this.
What lies ahead?
- Across the country and the world, innovative learning methods are being adopted to ensure children’s education outcomes.
- The GHI report calls for effective delivery of social protection programmes.
- With continuing uncertainty regarding the reopening of schools, innovation is similarly required to ensure that not just food, but nutrition is delivered regularly to millions of children.
- For many of them, that one hot-cooked meal was probably the best meal of the day.