Activists, parents, and teachers have demanded that the government extend its initiative to provide eggs with midday meals to all districts in the State and not just those that have reported higher levels of malnutrition.
Public health activist Sylvia Karpagam, who is part of the Right to Food and Right to Health campaigns, said pre-lockdown statistics of stunting and under-nutrition as well as anaemia should set alarm bells ringing “The State really needs to look at whether ideology/prejudice or nutritional concerns should direct nutritional policies for children. In Karnataka, 35.4% children under five years are stunted, and 32.9% are underweight,” she said.
The Department of Public Instruction on Wednesday had issued a circular stating that eggs should be provided to students from Classes I to VIII in seven districts, a move that will benefit around 14.44 lakh children. Schools will be provided eggs 12 days a month, which would mean that students would get it three times a week. Students who do not eat eggs will be given bananas. Ms. Karpagam said Karnataka would need an allocation of ₹370 crore for three eggs a week and ₹617 crore for five eggs a week.
G.B. Siddalingappa, State president, Karnataka Rajya Shala Abhiruddhi Samanvaya Vedike, held a similar view. “All children need to get access to nutritious food. We demand that this is extended to all schools in the State to tackle the problem of malnutrition,” he said.
Teachers and health experts are urging the government to find a better source of protein for children who do not eat eggs instead of bananas.
R. Vishal, Commissioner for Public Instruction, said the department was looking at a protein alternative for students. “We examined the possibility of giving protein biscuits or ladoos to students but they come with high sugar content so we avoided it. We will provide bananas till we find a better supplement,” he said. The Commissioner also said that they would study the pilot done in seven districts and if the results were positive, they would urge the State Government to extend it to the rest of Karnataka.