The Mid-day meal scheme has a novel objective, and research across the world has confirmed that school meals do help in reducing hunger, increase school enrolments and attendance, and also help improve learning outcomes.
Many countries have these school meal programmes and in India, the concept of providing hot cooked meals in schools has a long history going back to Tamil Nadu which started the meal scheme in the early 1980s, and then a Supreme Court order made providing a cooked meal in government schools a legal entitlement.
Today the mid-day meal is the first meal of the day for most children and currently it covers more than 100 million children across 1.15 million schools. It also gives employment to 2.5 million women, mostly from SC/ST/OBC communities, who are employed as mid-day meal cooks and helpers and is arguably one of the best programmes in the social sector.
Unfortunately, incidents like the one in February this year, where nine students of a government school in Delhi got sick after having a mid-day meal which allegedly had a dead rat in it, or the incident in a primary school in Mathura, where two kids died after drinking adulterated milk, remind us that the system still has some serious flaws. Continue reading