Akshaya Patra Foundation ‘links' children's good health to ‘supplementary food'

Certain claims made in a report on the mid-day meal provided by the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) raised more questions than they answered. The report was released by Minister for Higher Education V.S. Acharya here on Saturday.

The Department of Public Health at Manipal University presented the “Project Progress Report” of a study titled “Nutritional Assessment in School children in Mangalore City”, which was funded by the APF. Nearly all schools in the city have an annually renewable contract with the Akshaya Patra Foundation for the government's mid-day meal scheme.

Presenting the findings of the study, Head of the department Ramachandra Kamat said that of the 1,630 children who were covered, 1,495 children were in the normal category, 78 were thin, 37 were overweight, 16 were obese and only four were severely thin, as per the World Health organisation guidelines. The factors studied were height, weight and Body Mass Index.

In conclusion, he attributed the “good” nutritional and health status of children to the afternoon meal provided by the APF without stating the correlation between the two.

However, when journalists asked him how sole credit for the good health of the children could be given to the mid-day meal, he said that the Akshaya Patra meal would provide a third of the nutrients required for the child. Asked whether the nutrient content of the food provided by the APF was studied in this manner, he said it had not.

A journalist asked Mr. Kamath whether socio-economic factors, the home food of the children, were factored into the study, or whether the sample had been tested against a similar study done on children where the APF did not provide the meal , Mr. Kamath said that they could not look into all those factors.