Government prepares diet plan for community school midday meal programmeThe new guideline recommends cutting off junk food and providing locally produced food to children.
The government has prepared a set of rules for community schools to adopt in their midday meal programme to ensure that children get healthy and nutritious diet.
This guideline includes cutting off junk food from the diet.
The government move follows reports from various community schools, where children were being fed junk foods like instant noodles, dalmoth and beaten rice in their midday meal.
“We have prepared a booklet outlining the type of food schools should be providing to children under the midday meal scheme,” Geha Nath Gautam, director at the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, told the Post. “All schools that run the scheme have to strictly follow the diet regime.”
The community school midday meal programme is being run in 42 of the 77 districts in the country. While the government manages the programme in 33 districts, the World Food Programme provides midday meals to the children of select schools in nine districts.
Gautam said several community schools were found providing junk foods for their ease of preparation.
The diet booklet was prepared by a technical committee which included representatives from the nutrition section under the Family Welfare Division, the World Food Programme, and the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control.
“We have prioritised the use of homegrown resources. The food items, of course, can vary according to the geography of the place,” Gautam told the Post.
Manoj Shah, a school meal specialist at the World Food Programme, said that schools can feed locally available food like fried maize and beans, lentils, porridge, gruel, fruits and vegetables.“Schools in Karnali Province can use buckwheat and millet to prepare porridge, whereas schools in the Tarai can use wheat and rice,” Shah said.
“This way, the cost of food will be low, local produces will get priority and, most importantly, children can have balanced and nutritious diet.”
The government has also recommended different methods for midday meal management in schools. Supplying healthy meals to schools from caterers and putting local mother groups are some of the recommendations.
Over 2.2 million children in the districts with low human development index are currently getting midday meal. Every year, the government spends over Rs 550 million in community school midday meal programme. The scheme has helped reduce dropout rate among children of school-going age and boost enrolment.