Karnataka plans to restart midday meals after Dasara holidays

Teachers feel attendance at schools will improve if meals are provided

In the backdrop of the growing demand for midday meals to be restarted in schools, the government is planning to reintroduce it after the Dasara holidays. The Department of Primary and Secondary Education has written to all the Deputy Directors of Public Instruction asking about their preparedness and also sought suggestions on how the scheme can be implemented effectively.

Teachers of government schools feel the attendance is likely to improve in schools if midday meals are provided. “Many children are not getting adequate nutrition as their families have been badly affected by the pandemic. Providing midday meals in schools will ensure that the health of students improves,” said a teacher of a government school in North Bengaluru.

S. Suresh Kumar, former Primary and Secondary Education Minister, met Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday and explained the need to start the noon meal programme immediately. He later announced on social media that orders in connection to it would be issued soon.

For the 2020-21 academic year, when schools were closed because of COVID-19, the government had provided dry ration such as foodgrains, toor dal, oil, salt, and milk powder to students. But for the 2021-22 academic year, it has neither provided dry ration nor served midday meals when classes reopened for high school and upper primary students.

Sylvia Karpagam, who is part of the Right to Food campaign, said that the government was not addressing the malnutrition crisis in the State. “The midday meal is a crucial, legally mandated commitment that governments have made to children. By denying this for months on end, the government is not fulfilling the fundamental right of a child to life. The programme has to be restarted immediately. All vacant posts for cooks/helpers should be filled and with adequate remuneration. Hot cooked meals have to be prepared at schools.”

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), stunting (low height for age) is prevalent in 35.4% of children under the age of five in Karnataka.

In the same age group, the percentage of underweight (low weight for age) children is 32.9%, while 19.5% are wasted (low weight for height).

Nutrition experts have highlighted the need for an independent assessment of the nutritional status of children. They say students should be given eggs on all days of the week in schools, irrespective of whether they are mild, moderate or severely malnourished.

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