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Updated: August 7, 2013 14:19 IST

A nutritious option

Bharat Dogra
Comment (7)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Tiffin time: During a mid-day meal at a municipal high school in Vijaywada. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar
The Hindu Tiffin time: During a mid-day meal at a municipal high school in Vijaywada. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

An alternative system of mid-day meal management can ensure both food quality and safety of students

Widespread national concern over the poor quality of mid-day meals has been voiced following the Bihar tragedy. In addition, there are safety concerns arising from large-scale daily cooking of meals inside the school compound as over 80 children were burnt to death in a school in Tamil Nadu’s Kumbakonam in 2004.

Last but not the least, many teachers have complained of further decline in the quality of school education when they have to give a lot of their time to supervising cooking and food distribution.

All these problems can be sorted out by introducing an alternative system. This system also has the benefit of simultaneously helping anganwadis, providing employment to local women from weaker sections and helping organic farming.

According to this system, the responsibility of preparing and distributing mid-day meals will be given to Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of local women. These groups will be provided with some initial capital in its bank account by the government.

The government will also provide a clean kitchen, utensils and wherever practical, a cooking gas connection. The kitchen will be near the school but not inside the school.

The SHGs will prepare nutritious traditional local dry foods, which will vary according to the season.

The raw material will be purchased from local or nearby organic farmers at a price which provides due encouragement to organic farming.

In addition, fruits that can be distributed and eaten easily, such as oranges and bananas, will also be procured.

Twice every day, at attendance time and tiffin time, women from the SHGs will go to the local schools and distribute the dry food (or fruits) after tasting it.

The teachers will merely have to sign the papers for food received for so many children. The government will quickly make payments on the basis of these papers at a rate that gives a good margin to the SHGs.

The groups can also provide nutritious food at anganwadi centres. After fulfilling these two commitments on a priority basis, the groups can also sell its products commercially.

In this proposed system, a lot of employment and income potential for women from weaker sections can be tapped. Over a period of time, on-the-job training can also be provided to members of the SHGs.

A much needed alternative to the current mid day meal scheme .Also milk can be replaced by other nutritional alternatives .

from:  Sabs
Posted on: Aug 8, 2013 at 10:03 IST

It is really unfortunate that after all the scams and public loot over six decades since our independence we still believe that our government can implement such a critical and large scale project afffecting the lives of our children. Some of the so called kitchens used to prepare meals are dark dungeons where it would be hard for the cooks to even see what exactly is being used in the preparation of food. There is no sense of hygiene. Private organisations and NGOs are doing a far better job. The involvement of parents would also be beneficial. The government is the problem, not the solution.

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 19:38 IST

It looks fine on paper but then all government schemes also looks fine on paper. Without a proper supervision the Self Help Group may not work properly. Then how many people are engaged in organic farming ? Mostly it is on experimental basis. With high cost of everything people can hardly afford to take risk. It will better if Parent /Teachers Association is entrusted the supervision mid-day meal. Parents naturally will be concerned with the welfare of their children.

from:  vkguptan
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 19:05 IST

Insightful article that provides solutions to the government. We can at
least implement this in Chennai and the other states could follow.

from:  Antony Richard
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 18:52 IST

The tragic events in a few schools do not mean that the scheme is a failure.In fact it is a
success in majority of schools where a committee of parents,teachers and students manage
the affair.It is also a practical lesson for collective living-agricultural
production,purchase,cleaning and washing,cooking,serving hot and cleaning-.A lesson on
inventory control will be an additional lesson.Safty standards in foods needs to be
taught.There are many models tried.Women self help groups are very effective in Kerala for
cooking and serving.Food being a cultural and personal item,preferences for menus vary and
accordingly ingredients of food.Quality of drinking water,cleanliness of plates and
tumblers,provision of waste disposal,hygienic comfort stations and above all minimization of
wastes are matters to be attended.Parent Teacher associations can play an important
role.The Department of Primary Education may institute awards and incentives to identify
well performing schools .

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 18:38 IST

Wondeful! But why not have a paper free system? Like let the kids swipe their ID card and get a meal plate. I wish atleast the new systems be more fool proof. Time being, just changing the system will not help. Its high time we device fool proof systems.

from:  SHiva
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 17:13 IST

Wonderful plan!!Why cannot our politicians our learned IAS and state admins have such great innovative plans?Hope somebody in the govt is learning!!!

from:  Dr GAUTAM
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 14:40 IST
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