Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s plan to supply fortified midday meals in schools has not found favour with the HRD Ministry.
The ministry has rejected the idea, following opposition from 10 states, citing implementation constraints and a negative report from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad.
“The hot cooked meal is served in the school, hence, we can ensure the child gets at least one meal a day. In case of fortified food, the packet may well be taken home and eaten by someone else,” a ministry official said.
According to an HRD ministry official, the food ministry had proposed supplying fortified food in schools and wanted the issue to be discussed on a national platform. The ministry adopted a two-pronged strategy to evaluate the proposal — seeking a response from the state government and getting a technical evaluation from the NIN.
So far, 10 states have responded and none has supported the proposal. For states like Chhattisgarh, adopting fortified food would mean loss of employment to thousands working as cooks in schools and women self-help groups.
Some states have suggested serving packaged food.
Another concern raised by the states was regarding logistics support to supply fortified food. “Issues regarding storage, pilferage and quality were brought up,” the official said.
The NIN, however, is primarily concerned with how the government will ensure each child gets 450 calories and 12 gm of protein from the fortified food. “The biscuits cannot replace the hot, cooked meals provided in schools,” the NIN is said to have told the ministry. Officials, however, admitted to problems in administering the mid-day meal scheme in states like Uttar Pradesh and in the Northeast.