Tackling poor quality food at noon meal programme

Sometimes food gets spoilt before it reaches school

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: If the noon meal programme is to attract more children, teachers, parents and meal providers must ensure quality nutritious food.

Often, schools are started with the managements promising to provide infrastructure but they fail to deliver, forcing students to make do with poor quality food, said participants at a meeting organised by the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group here on Friday. Parents, representatives of non-government organisations, teachers and Government officials discussed ways to improve food quality.

S. Annamalai, joint director of noon meal programme in the Directorate of Rural Development, says funds are given in advance though sometimes there could be some lacuna. Urging managements to deposit the money in bank, he says they should deliver on their promise and provide infrastructure.

Corporation schools are better off in terms of infrastructure and facilities as they have ample space but since the Corporation is a "government within a government" it created other problems that the department is addressing, he says.

Lakshmi Surayanarayana, principal of Olcott Memorial School, a private institution run for the poor said: "Everyone in the school eats the same food. Things have improved."

Rice and other ingredients are better stored. "We have a drumstick tree in the backyard and though children complain about worms that the tree attracts it ensures that they get nutritious greens everyday."

S. Rajagopalan of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation called for local granaries in every village that could be maintained by villagers.

Privatisation suggested

Some non-government organisations suggest privatising the noon meal programme, allowing pre-cooked food in the school but Mr. Annamalai says that food is cooked at least 12 hours in advance and sometimes it gets spoilt before it reaches the school.

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