While the new midday meal menu stipulated by the Department of Public Instruction specifies that onion should be included, the government has given an exemption to Akshaya Patra Foundation. The NGO, which provides middaymeals to lakhs of students, does not use either garlic or onionin its food.
Also read: Why are Karnataka’s schoolchildren unhappy with the mid-day meal?
At a press conference on Tuesday, K.G. Jagadeesha, Commissioner for Public Instruction, said one of the clauses in the order states that if NGOs wish to make any changes to the menu, they need to approach the government. “The foundation has already taken permission from the government for its menu,” he said, adding that the National Institute of Nutrition has stated that the food the foundation provides is in compliance with the nutritional guidelines mandated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
According to MHRD norms, each serving supplied to lower primary students should have 450 kcal energy and 12 gm protein. For upper primary classes it should be 700 kcal with 20 gm protein per serving.
Mr. Jagadeesha added that the menu was revised only to break the monotony for students.
The controversy over the inclusion of onion and garlic had reared its head in November 2018, after the department had issued a notice urging the foundation to include both items in its midday meals. Although the State government had initially refused to sign a contract with it, it later relented.
Officials in the department said that they were forced to relent as they did not find an alternative vendor. In Bengaluru alone, Akshaya Patra Foundation provides meals to 1.83 lakh students in 1,212 schools.
In Karnataka, 8.6 lakh of the total 53.47 lakh students are served midday meals provided by non-governmental organisations, including Akshaya Patra. In the remaining schools, students get food cooked by midday meal workers in the kitchen located on the premises.
‘Build curiosity in students’
Inculcating curiosity and building lessons to hold the attention of students is high on the government’s to-do list. Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar has asked the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT) to develop learning modules to build curiosity among the students. The services of the Block Resource Personnel and Cluster Resource Personnel will be tapped to study learning outcomes in government schools.