Food quantities served under Mid-day Meals scheme in the State’s schools are way below the norms prescribed, going by the findings of the Fifth Joint Review Mission to Andhra Pradesh.
According to the Mission’s report after its visit to Hyderabad and Medak between June 24 and July 3, the gap between the norms and actuals is more in the case of meals from centralised kitchen, than those served by the Self Help Groups (SHGs).
The gap in terms of cooked rice from centralised kitchens ranged between 200 and 375 grams per child per day. The team covered 49 schools in both the districts, and randomly selected 990 children for nutritional assessment.
Only about 40 to 60 per cent of students are eating mid-day meals in the schools in Hyderabad, as against the 85 to 90 per cent in Medak. In general, 50 per cent of the children come to school without having breakfast, the report observed.
Except on the days of egg and ‘daal’, the children are not getting enough proteins, more so in the case of centralised kitchen. All in all, no child is getting the entitled one-third requirement of calories or protein from the school lunch. Even while noting that the quality of rice was better in the current academic year when compared to the previous years, the report cited complaints about stones in rice, lumpy, uncooked or grainy rice, unpeeled and grimy vegetables, and insipid and cold meals.
Fifty-six per cent of children were found to be malnourished, while 35 per cent were mildly undernourished. Only seven per cent children have normal BMI.
Making its suggestions, the JRM team recommended for a complaint redressal mechanism in schools for the parents to approach in case of any grievance, and creation of a separate authority for the implementation of the scheme. Management structures should be set up at State, district and mandal levels for effective monitoring, it said. Among other recommendations are use of insulated containers to keep the food warm in transportation, use of seasonal, low cost, unconventional food, involvement of home science institutions, effective hazard management, water purification systems, periodic cleaning of kitchen equipment, on-the-spot cooking and serving of food wherever possible, and community involvement. In a recent letter to the Principal Secretary, School Education, Rajeshwar Tewari, the Additional Secretary, Elementary Education, Amarjit Singh noted that the percentage of children availing the scheme has declined from 91 per cent in 2011-12 to 70 per cent in 2012-13.