Experts working on child education have different views on Mid-day Meal scheme. While National Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee on Mid-day Meal member Ashok Rao talked about laying emphasis on nutrition and food safety in the entire process, Sanjeev Rai who has worked on primary education for decades argued that instead of compartmentalising children’s education into separate blocks, it was high time that the government “conceptualise an integrated education model for the children in the 3-18 years age group where they can get quality food and learning in a safe environment.”

Mr. Rai underscored that the Municipal and State Government schools, which over 80 per cent of India’s poor, Dalit, minorities and other marginalised communities have access to, come lowest in the hierarchy of the government schooling system. Unlike Navodaya and Sainik schools, the rest of the government schools are not the priority of the policy makers, he added.

Opposing the idea of contract system to NGOs, Mr. Rao said the contract and tendering process of the MDM was done as if it was some real estate deal. He suggested the idea of community kitchen near the school concerned, arguing that in the case of centralised kitchens which are located in far off areas, the nutritional and food safety aspect get ignored.

“If one lakh children have to be served at 11 a.m., then the food has to be prepared by 6 a.m., after which it travels for over 4-6 hours in delivery vans. So what was fresh does not remain so when it is finally served. Has anybody tried to find out that in the food, which has been repeatedly found to be anything but nutritional, what kind of bacterial activity must be taking place in those 4-6 hours?” he asked.