The Tamil Nadu government on July 27 issued an Order to implement the first phase of the ‘Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme’ at 1,545 government primary schools to benefit more than 1.14 lakh children in Classes I-V across the State during 2022-23, at a total cost of ₹33.56 crore.
Under the scheme, breakfast would be provided to students up to Class V in these government schools on “all working days,” a G.O. issued by Chief Secretary V. Irai Anbu said. As much as possible, breakfast prepared with millets available in the region could be provided to students at least on two days every week.
More than 43,600 students studying in schools in Municipal Corporations, more than 17,400 studying in those in Municipalities, more than 42,800 in village panchayat limits and more than 10,100 students in remote and hilly areas would benefit under the scheme, which is said to be “first-of-its-kind in the country.”
Every student is to be provided a cooked meal of 150-500 gram breakfast with sambar with vegetables. The G.O. followed an announcement made by Chief Minister M. K. Stalin in the floor of the Assembly on May 7 this year that a breakfast scheme would be rolled out in government schools to encourage them and to ensure their nutrition.
Recalling the evolution of the scheme in the State over the past 100 years, the G.O. mentioned that it was then president of Madras Municipal Corporation Sir Pitti Thyagaraya, who introduced the breakfast scheme in Thousand Lights area based on a resolution adopted on September 16, 1920. The scheme was later expanded to benefit more than 1,600 pupils.
In 1957, then Chief Minister of then Madras State (renamed Tamil Nadu in 1967) K. Kamaraj introduced the mid-day meals scheme. In 1982, then Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran announced a scheme for ensuring nutritious meals to students in primary schools and it was rolled out in a school at Pappakurichi in Tiruchi district on July 1, 1982.
In 1989, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announced in the Assembly that eggs would be provided once in two weeks as part of the nutritious meal. In the Budget presented on July 23, 1998, the government announced that eggs would be provided once every week. In 2007, eggs were given three days a week. A year later, the scheme was modified to provide bananas to students who did not consume eggs and to provide eggs five days a week.
The G.O. also cited a joint study by the University of Washington and International Food Policy Research Institute to contend that ensuring nutritious meals for students was essential for their health and well-being.
Hours after he signed the order, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin called upon field staff to ensure that the food was prepared and served clean with love and affection. He also urged the elected representatives and members of the public to ensure that the scheme was a success. “The basic principles of the Dravidian movement are to ensure education to several crores of people who were denied it earlier and to help the downtrodden reach the seats of power. Tamil Nadu can be proud of the fact that the Dravidian movement has scored a victory on that front to a certain extent,” he said in a statement.
There was no doubt that the scheme would make a significant impact on the expansion of school education, promote the joy of learning and improve the lives of children of poor families, Mr. Stalin said. He hoped that the scheme, emblematic of the Dravidian Model, would be followed by other States.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Stalin launched a physical and mental health awareness campaign for school students. Addressing students at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School at Ashok Nagar in Chennai, the Chief Minister underlined the importance of physical and mental health. “You should all be active all the time. You should not be sad. Laziness will come in the way of your success. Do not delay what you could do today,” he said. Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments P.K. Sekarbabu, Minister for School Education Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, MLAs J. Karunanidhi and Dha. Velu, Chief Secretary V. Irai Anbu, Greater Chennai Corporation Mayor R. Priya and senior officials were present.