Although the midday meal scheme was initiated with an aim of providing nutritious food to school children, a recent study has revealed that a large proportion of students in the government schools of UT are not consuming the food served under the scheme.
According to a sample study conducted by S Prakasam, a post-doctoral fellow at Panjab University (PU), on an average only 60% of students in the region’s government schools are eating their mid-day meals. However, the number is as low as 45% in few schools, the study, which is sponsored by the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) claims.
The study reveals that the main reason why students refrain from consuming the midday meal is that they find it to be of poor quality. The monotonous nature of the menu along with improper cooking of the food were few of the other reasons because of which students stayed away from the food.
“Teachers told me that the lesser proportion of girls were taking the mid-day meal than boys which is a matter of concern. Also, a larger proportion of children in Hindi-medium schools were having mid-day meal than the ones in Model schools,”said Prakasam.
Intake of mid-day meal is 85% in those schools where kitchen is located on school campus, which is significantly higher than those where food comes from centralised kitchens. “In schools which had their own kitchens the food was found to be of better quality. The proportion of children taking mid-day meal is more in those schools which are located in periphery of the city than those located in the centre of the city,” said Dr Prakasam.
According to the study, incharges of the mid-day meal in schools gave the first rank to the Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management and second to the Ambedkar Institute of Hotel Management in terms of the punctuality, quality and quantity of the food supplied.
The study claims that a large number of schools did not have adequate infrastructure to store mid-day meal and teachers want the authorities to open kitchens for a cluster of schools.