National Nutrition Week is celebrated in India every year between 1st and 7th September by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Ministry for Women and Child Development. Since 1982, this dedicated week has been conducted to emphasize the importance of the right nutrition for the human body. This National Nutrition Week, let’s have a look at one of the key programmes of the government to increase nutrition levels among children in schools, the Mid Day Meal Scheme. The benefits of this scheme are two-pronged. It not only helps raise nutritional levels amongst children but also significantly contributes to the learning development of a child. Studies have shown that hunger and malnutrition can be detrimental to a child’s learning abilities, thus affecting their education and ultimately having a negative impact on their future. Therefore, these Mid Day Meal Schemes go a long way in contributing to a holistic development of children. Let’s have a look at some of the frequently asked questions about this scheme.
What is the Mid Day Meal Scheme?
Mid May Meal Scheme is a scheme of the central government that provides free nutritious meals to children of certain age groups attending schools. While this scheme first originated in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s by the efforts of K. Kamraj, it officially came to be a government scheme in 1995 when it was launched by the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE). The main aim of this scheme was to ensure retention and admission of children in schools along with improvising nutrition levels among children. It is important to note that these meals are provided to children at schools only. However, considering the current COVID19 crisis, many states have been delivered these meals to children at their homes.
Is this scheme regulated by law or just an optional programme offered by some schools or governments?
The Mid Day Meal Scheme is regulated by the Mid Day Meal Rules, 2015, that was passed under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Who is eligible under this scheme?
Children between the ages of 6 and 14 years studying in Class I to VIII, who enrol and attend local body schools, government schools, government-aided schools including madrasas and maqtabs under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are eligible under the Mid Day Meal Scheme. The scheme also extends to children studying in Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternative & Innovative Education (AIE) centres.
What kind of meal is covered under this scheme?
As per the scheme, every child should be provided with a 450-700 calories cooked meal that contained 12-20 grams of protein for a minimum period of 200 days. However, when this scheme had started, instead of provided cooked meals schools in some States provided dry rations to children.
Where are the meals cooked?
Meals provided to the children under this scheme are required to be cooked in a facility in the school itself. Schools in urban areas can use the facility of a centralised kitchen as well. However, these facilities must strictly comply with the guidelines issued by the government and serve the meals to children on school premises only.
Who is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Mid Day Meal Scheme?
The School Management Committee mandated under Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Mid-day meal Scheme. The School Management Committee is also responsible to oversee quality of meals provided to the children, cleanliness of the place where the food is cooked and that hygiene is maintained in the implementation of the Mid Day Meal Scheme. In case there is temporary unavailability of foodgrains to continue the Mid Day Meal Scheme, the Headmaster/Headmistress of the school has the power to utilise any funds available in school to make sure that the scheme is implemented and free nutritious meals are provided to the students. This money can later be reimbursed to the school account immediately after the Mid Day Meal Funds are received.
Can the meals provided to these students be tested for their nutritional value at any point?
To ensure that the meals served under this scheme meet the required nutritional and quality standards, they are required to be evaluated and certified by the Government Food Research Laboratory or any other laboratory accredited or recognised by law. For this purpose, the Food and Drugs Administration Department of the State can collect samples of these meals at least once a month from randomly selected schools or central kitchens and send these samples to be tested at the mentioned laboratories. Have any more questions on the Mid Day Meal Scheme? Ask Nyaaya.
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