The Mid-day Meal Rules, 2015, notified by the Government of India (GoI) puts forth certain stipulations pertaining to the meals served to school children as a part of the Mid-day Meal Scheme. Among other things, it stresses on the nutritional standards and quality of mid-day meals; the latter being given due importance this time around.
Mid-day Meals Quality Guidelines
As far as the nutritional standards are concerned, it is stipulated that school lunch program should provide 450 calories and 12 g protein for primary students and 700 calories and 20 g protein for upper primary students. The implementing bodies, i.e., government schools, partnering non-profit organisations, etc., have to plan the menu accordingly. They can rotate the food items, or vegetables that are used in preparation of these food items, on a daily basis to ensure that the children get necessary nutrients in prescribed quantity.
Now, the personnel from an accredited lab can evaluate hot cooked meal samples as and when deemed necessary to ensure its nutritional value and quality.
These new guidelines bring about a much-needed change to the ambitious scheme. The quality of food served to children deserves more attention, considering that the number of beneficiaries of this programme runs to the tune of over 100 million. Thus, not taking the quality aspect seriously will mean putting millions of children at risk and any untoward incident will affect the whole programme. The authorities need to ensure that such incidents do not occur; implementing stringent quality check regulations is one way to do this.
The notification makes it mandatory for every school to have a facility for storing raw materials and cooking meals without compromising on the hygiene. Additionally, it’s important that the cooking staff maintains personal hygiene and wears gloves, masks, caps, etc., while cooking in order to avoid contamination. Also, there should be a proper arrangement of clean water and a waste disposal site in the vicinity.
The notification of new rules is a crucial step that will help in improving the quality of Mid-day Meal Programme. When a programme is being run at such a grand scale, it has to be constantly evaluated to minimize problems and make it more effective.
A lot goes into ensuring the quality of mid-day meals; right from careful selection of menu to proper hygiene. Having said that, all these efforts are worth taking because the mid-day meal is at times, the only meal many of these children afford. In a country, where malnutrition is a chronic problem, the mid-day meal comes as a blessing in disguise.