A recent study by post-doctoral fellow of the department of economics at Panjab University (PU) has found that 83% of Chandigarh slum children have midday meal but their body mass index (BMI) is less than 18.5, which is less than the normal.
BMI is an approximate measure of whether someone is over or underweight and is calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters.
Seepana Prakasam, who is an assistant professor in Government College for Girls, Sector 11, and post-doctoral fellow in the PU, conducted the study.
Prakasam measured BMI (weight and height) of 500 (250 girls and 250 boys) secondary schoolchildren (Class 6 to 8) in slum areas (4 number colony, EWS Colony, Dhanas, and Janta colony) of Chandigarh.
He also conducted a household survey in the above said areas (250 households whose children are studying in Class 1 to 8 in government schools) and interviewed midday meal incharge teachers of 50 government schools in the city for knowing the implementation status of the scheme.
"Interestingly, 83% of the children eat the meal but they have BMI less than 18.5, which is less than the normal. On the other hand, only 17% beneficiaries have normal BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9," he said.
"Though girls are more among the non-beneficiaries and irregular consumers of midday meal, but their BMI is relatively better than boys. The relative dependency of boys on midday meal is more than that of girls but nutritional supplement they receive is not encouraging. It is a matter of great concern for policy reformulation," said Prakasam.
He added that moreover maximum number of schools order food for lesser number of children and distribute the same among more.
It came out that the children not taking/discontinuing, wasting/taking less quantity of the meal was because the food was not tasty, under-cooked/ overcooked, fear of insects in the food, repetition of one or other type of pulses in weekly menu.
Prakasam suggested for reduction in repetition of pulses in the menu, which is causing monotony among the children and adding seasonal green vegetables, sweet dish/milk products.