‘’Mid-day meal’ programme in Dadeldhura’s community schools found effectiveThe programme includes the students’ parents, who are provided with stipends and taught to prepare nutritious meals for their children.
Raj Tamata, a fourth-grader, used to take junk food to his school for lunch. Nowadays, he carries a box of a homecooked meal every day. His food habits have changed after his school, Bhubaneswari Basic School, in Bhageshwar Rural Municipality of Dadeldhura started implementing a new ‘mid-day meal’ programme.
The school has prepared separate lunch menus for Tamata’s mother to make six days a week.
“Along with the reduction of cost for buying lunch, the health of our children is also improving,” said Raj’s mother, Hemanti Tamata. “And the school also provides us with Rs 15 per day to prepare a healthy lunch.”
Not only Hemanti Tamata but the parents of all students in the school have started preparing homecooked lunch for their wards. This new initiative has had a positive impact on the students’ health and their parents’ lifestyle as well.
As part of the new initiative, the school staff visited the students’ houses and taught the parents to prepare a wholesome meal, which included eggs, khichadi, legumes, rice, pulses and vegetables.
Maina Sahu, another guardian, said the villagers had no idea about the nutritional needs of their children before the campaign.
“We provided our children with whatever was available in the house,” said Sahu. “Now we prepare nutritious meals for our children, as directed by the school.”
The guardians are also happy with the school’s new mid-day meal programme. "The meal plans have been designed in such a way that families from weak financial backgrounds can also prepare them,” said Mukesh Bhatt, a teacher at the school.
Besides Bhubaneswari Basic School, there are 248 community schools in the district where the government has launched mid-day meal programmes under its ‘Cash Programme”. The initiative is funded by the World Food Program, which provides 33 percent of the total expenses while the government authorities bear the rest.
Under this programme, some community schools have asked guardians to prepare nutritious homecooked meals for their wards while other institutions have requested guardians to be present at the school and prepare mid-day meals for the children. In some school, members of mothers’ groups have also joined hands in preparing nutritious meals for children.
According to Ramdutta Bhatta, head of the Education Development and Coordination Unit, the recently implemented mid-day meal programme is different, as it has built a direct relationship between schools and the guardians.
"There is better interaction between the teachers and the guardians as the latter frequently visit the school to receive money under the mid-day meal programme,” Bhatta said.