This ensures the scheme continues without a glitch

Incessant rains and the escalating food prices may have forced district mid-day meals and anganwadi officials to write to higher authorities for larger funds, but Dakshina Kannada has bucked the trend, largely thanks to the Akshaya Butti (Basket) scheme.

Started one year ago in Akshara Dasoha scheme here, students in various government and government-aided schools are encouraged to get one vegetable each to the school. Officials here insist that the contribution is not mandatory.

“We ask them to get only what is home grown. Some bring one tomato, one papaya, and so on. This way, there are enough locally-generated vegetables for us to use, and we can ride out the price rise now,” said Manjula K.L., Educational Officer, Akshara Dasoha.

A total of 2, 22,818 children, from Class I to X, across 1,426 government and government-aided schools in the district are served mid-day meals. From last year, the cost per unit has been set at Rs. 3.11 for primary schools, Rs. 4.65 for Higher Primary and Rs. 6.16 for high school.

In these, just 71 paisa, Rs. 1.06 and Rs. 1.06 are allocated respectively for vegetables.

With the prices of vegetables increasing during the monsoons, officials said the Akshaya Butti idea helps supplement the nutritional value of the sambhar.

“Dakshina Kannada is the only district to implement this for mid-day meals. And because the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) are more involved in this district, the idea has worked out very well,” said Ms. Manjula, adding that with a rotation scheme in place where only one batch of students brings a vegetable on a given day, there is no financial burden on parents.

In the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) of the anganwadis — over 42,000 children aged between 3 and 6 attend anganwadis here — the Butti scheme that has been operational for the past two years has helped supplement the Rs. 4.6 unit cost per child per meal set by the government.

“We have set Rs. 3.5 to Rs. 4 for eggs for the severely malnourished, and with the rising price of eggs, this scale is strained. Vegetables also become expensive. But, getting children to bring any vegetable has helped offset this…in fact, children have taken it in a competitive spirit,” said Sundar Poojary, Child Development Project Officer.

What also has helped the schemes to overcome the price hikes are the coconut trees and vegetable gardens planted in a large number of schools.