The Gujarat High Court has taken notice of a survey which reveals that among households with children enrolled in government schools, 85 percent of parents reported that they were not able to access mid-day meals since March, when the schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The High Court has now issued a notice to the State Government on this matter.
- Which law provides for Mid-day Meals?
Indian law provides for mid-day meals under the National Food Security Act, 2013, along with the Mid-Day Meal Rules, 2015.
- Who gets Mid-day Meal benefits?
To provide nutritional support to children, one free mid-day meal is given to government school children up to class VIII or within the age group of six to fourteen years. The meal is provided only to children who enroll and attend school.
The meal is given everyday (except on school holidays) in all government schools, government-aided schools and schools run by local government bodies. This includes madrasas and maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The meal is served to children at the school. However, during the Covid lockdown, some states like Kerala sent raw food materials or cooked meals to children at their homes.
- Quality of the meal
Mid-day meals are hot cooked meals and have to follow specified nutritional standards. The meals are prepared according to guidelines issued by the government. Every school which provides such meals must have the facility for cooking the meals in a hygienic manner. Schools in urban areas can use centralised kitchens for cooking meals, if required.
To ensure that the meal satisfies the required nutritional standards and quality, it is evaluated and certified by the Government Food Research Laboratory or any authorized laboratory. The Food and Drugs Administration Department of the concerned State government collects samples to ensure the nutritive value and quality of the meals. This Department collects monthly samples from randomly selected schools or centralised kitchens, and sends such samples for examination to laboratories.
- Food Security Allowance
If the mid-day deal is not provided in a school on any school day, the State government has to pay a food security allowance to every child deprived of the meal. The reason for not providing the meal does not matter – it could be nonavailability of food grains, cooking cost, fuel, or absence of cook-cum-helper or any other reason. The allowance must be paid by 15th of the next month.
The food security allowance is calculated according to:
(a) Quantity of food grains as per entitlement of the child (allowance or quota of the child); and
(b) Cooking cost in the concerned State.