Akshaya Patra recently raised funds for Midday Meals amidst Covid-19 pandemic, adding to the history of the provision of such in the country. Let us understand how midday meals work in India.
Crux of the Matter
Recent Fund Raising
Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest midday meal provider working as a not-for-profit organization, recently raised $950,000 through a virtual event of Texas to provide meals amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was named ‘Virtual Gala’ and was attended by philanthropists from all over the world. The aim of the meeting was to help Akshaya Patra in eradicating “childhood hunger” in India.
In the latest New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Indian government also proposed ‘breakfast’ as a supplement to the midday meal.
History Of Midday Meals In India
- 1925: Midday Meal started in Madras for disadvantaged and underprivileged children.
- 1980s: Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry were providing Midday Meals on a state basis.
- 1995: The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched, aiming to enhance children’s health and also increase enrollment in schools.
- 2001: The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) was launched on a national level. The scheme was mandated to provide children in every Government and Government-aided primary school a “prepared Mid Day Meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12 gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days”.
- The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) is currently run in “Government, Govt. Aided, Local Body, EGS and AIE Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Ministry of Labour”.
- The Government also mandates a minimum nutritional requirement of the meal. Primary class students are provided 100 gm of rice/grains while the Upper primary class students are provided 150 gm of such. The minimum calorific intake mandated for students is 450 calories for the Primary students and 700 calories for Upper primary students.
- The aim of Middy Meals is not only to enhance health but also to eradicate “classroom hunger” which affects students’ learning. The scheme also aims to “socialize” children of different caste and religious groups together, and provide employment to disadvantaged groups.
- More than 25 lakh cooks are employed for Midday Meal provision (2016-17), and more than 11.6 crore children in the country are aided by the Mid Day Meals.
- A 2011 study has found that the Mid Day Meal increased overall enrollment in schools by 13% over a period of 10 years.
- Studies have also found that the average reading score “for children who ate school lunches for three to four years” was 18% higher than those having for less than a year.
Several NGOs are offered contracts to provide the Midday Meals across the country. These operate as either ‘centralized’ by setting up large “factory-like” kitchens or as ‘decentralized’, where the region and the roads are inadequate to set up large production settings.
Akshaya Patra is the largest Midday Meal provider in India, run by the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It provides free Midday Meals to over 1.8 million children in 19,039 Government schools and Government-aided schools, having set up 52 kitchens in 12 states and 2 Union Territories. The organization has also aided in the time of Covid-19 by providing 70 million servings of ‘dry rations’ and cooked meals.
Some other NGOs facilitating the provision of Midday Meals are Jay Gee Humanitarian Society & People’s Forum, Naandi Foundation Ekta Shakti Foundation, Isha Education, Rajasthan Bal Kalyan Samiti (RBKS), Milaan Be The Change, etc.
Several community programs are also run like the Tithi Bhojan (Gujarat), where people are encouraged to celebrate family events by providing Midday Meals in the locality. The Tithi Bhojan has been adopted across the country by the names “Sampriti Bhojan” in Assam, “Sneh Bhojan” in Maharashtra, “Shalegagi Naavu Neevu” in Karnataka, “Utsav Bhoj” in Rajasthan, etc.
- Madhu Pandit Dasa is the chairman and founder of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. He is also awarded Padma Shri Award by GOI for his services towards the youth of India through Akshaya Patra.
- CLT India (Children’s LoveCastles Trust) is an Indian non-profit, non-government organization based in Jakkur, Bengaluru. It was founded in 1997. It aims to provide education using technology to the under-served communities and its solutions serve the base of the pyramid. CLT started with providing midday meals.
- In 1982, ‘Food for Learning’ was launched with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initially, the program was aimed at scheduled caste and scheduled tribe girls.
- The Economic Times – Akshaya Patra raises $950,000 in US to feed mid-day meals to school children in India
- Hindustan Times – New Education Policy: Breakfast for school children besides mid-day meals
- Akshaya Patra – Role of Akshaya Patra
- Mid Day Meal Scheme – Meal Provision
- News 18 – Soon, School Children to Get ‘Special’ Midday Meal as HRD Ministry Adopts Gujarat Model
- GiveIndia – 10 NGOs battling hunger through mid-day meal in India