A report released on 10 December 2013 by the World Food Project (WFP) for 2013 on 169 countries has said that India’s midday meal programme stands 12th among 35 lower middle income countries. However it noted that India has the largest school feeding programme in the world, catering to over 114 million children. It covers almost 79 per cent of its total number of school-going children.
The report has been titled State of School Feeding Worldwide, 2013 has based its conclusions on a global survey conducted by the World Food Programme in2012. The report shows praise for India’s mid-day meal scheme as a good example of a mixed implementation approach.
It observes the two procurement processes in India’s Midday Meal scheme— one for food grains, which are subsidized by the Centre through Food Corporation of India (FCI), and one for other items like fresh fruits or vegetables, procured at the State level.
According to the Report the Midday Meal Scheme is the primary reason behind increase in gross primary enrolment between 2001-02 and 2007-08. The link is more pronounced in case of Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
Further the Report notes that school feeding schemes are not a sufficient condition for increase in enrolments. They have to be complemented with curriculum, textbooks, teachers and an environment conducive to learning. It also states that teachers should not be deployed in cooking since it would disrupt the teaching process in schools.
However the Report does not say anything about the nutritional impact of the scheme. Nevertheless it adds that the scheme needs to be fine-tuned with better coordination between sectors involved; government needs to allocate more and quickly delivered funds for food transportation and infrastructure.
In a landmark recommendation it states that the Mead day Meal Scheme can be connected with the local agricultural sector. Food could be purchased locally to feed the children and provide the agricultural economy boost by providing it a guaranteed local market. The Report points to the examples of Brazil, Scotland and Chile which already such local purchases to fund their school feeding programmes.
About Mid Day Meal Scheme
In 1925a midday meal scheme was launched for disadvantaged groups in Madras Municipal Corporation. By the first half of 1980s three states (Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala) and the Union Territory of Puducherry had universalized a cooked school feeding programme for children up to the primary level (1-5 standards).
For enhancing the enrolment, retention and attendance as well as the nutritional status of children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched on 15 August 1995 only in 2405 blocks of the country as a centrally sponsored scheme. In 2001 the scheme was expanded to all over India after a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India.
In October 2007 the scheme was extended to the upper primary level too (6 to 8 standards) first in 3479 blocks. From 1 April 2008 the scheme has been covering Government, Local Body and Government-aided primary and upper primary schools and the EGS/AIE (Education Guarantee Scheme/Alternative & Innovating Education) centres including Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) of all areas across the country.
In 2009 food norms were revised for upper primary children, allocation for Pulses are now increased from 25 to 30 grams, vegetables from 65 to 75 grams. The allocation for oil and fat contents are decreased from 10 grams to 7.5 grams.
The Budget 2013 has allocated 13215 crore rupees for the school feeding programme. It is 80% of total elementary education budget. Significantly, allocation to the Mead Day Meal Scheme has gone up by 55 % during the period of Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012). While it was 6678 crore rupees in 2007-08, it has gone up to 10380 crore rupees in 2011-12.
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