No onion and garlic in midday meals

State signs MoU with Akshaya Patra Foundation

Published - March 16, 2019 08:59 pm IST

In Bengaluru alone, APF provides meals to 1.83 lakh students in 1,212 schools.

In Bengaluru alone, APF provides meals to 1.83 lakh students in 1,212 schools.

The State government appears to have backtracked on its stand that onion and garlic be introduced in mid-day meals served to students. It has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), a subsidiary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), despite the latter’s refusal to use the two ingredients.

In November last year, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education had directed the foundation to use onion and garlic in food preparations. When the foundation refused to do so, the CEO of Bengaluru (Urban) Zilla Panchayat put the MoU, which had to be signed in April 2018, on hold.

In Bengaluru alone, APF provides meals to 1.83 lakh students in 1,212 schools.

“Akshaya Patra Foundation refused to include onion and garlic. We could not make alternative arrangements to provide food, and had to yield,” said an official, adding that the issue is yet to be resolved.

In February, reports by the National Institute of Nutrition stated that the menu by APF was in compliance with the nutritional guidelines suggested by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) said that it is yet to study samples from schools which received food from the foundation to see if the meals met or exceeded the energy and protein norms of the MHRD. However, CFTRI also stated that the contribution of onion and garlic towards macro and micro nutrients is negligible.

While CFTRI had earlier stated that onion and garlic enhance the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc from foodgrains, in its report submitted in February, it said that ingredients such as drumstick, turmeric, lime and jeera are also known to enhance bioaccessibility of micronutrients.

According to MHRD norms, food supplied to lower primary students should have 450 kcal energy and 12 grams of protein, while food supplied to upper primary classes should have 700 kcal and 20 grams protein.

M. R. Maruthi, Joint Director of the Midday Meal Scheme in Karnataka, said that while the MoU had been signed, the Chief Secretary and the Principal Secretary of the department are yet to take a call on inclusion of onion and garlic.

The move has not gone down well among public health experts and activists who have urged the State government to end the contract with APF.

Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and researcher, said that the larger issue is that children were not eating adequate quantities of the midday meals as it was not tasty. “Not including onion and garlic in the midday meals is a cultural imposition,” she said. She added that the State Food Commission had received complaints that students were not eating the meals as they were not familiar with food that did not use onion and garlic.

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