The Centre has decided to eliminate the role of NGOs in preparing mid-day meals for children in rural areas.
Notified last week, the Mid-Day Meal Rules, 2015, barred states from engaging NGOs to prepare meals in rural areas. In urban areas, NGOs will be allowed to operate centralised kitchens only where schools are not supported with kitchens and cooking components.
Nearly 450 NGOs, trusts and centralised kitchens serve meals in schools in urban areas where there is no space for kitchens and stores. There are no corresponding numbers for rural areas, but an education department official said it was a sizeable number.
“A number of NGOs have turned the scheme into a profit-making exercise and are deviating from the real purpose. The move is aimed at ensuring children are provided a fresh meal as it will be prepared in the schools itself,” said a senior HRD official. “Letters have been sent to states informing them about the rules and to ensure NGOs have little presence in the scheme because schools in rural areas are adequately supported with kitchens and other cooking components,” said the official.
NGOs supplying mid-day meals include Akshaya Patra, Iskcon and Stree Shakti. “As far as mid-day meal is concerned, we are functioning in 10 states, covering 1.4 million children per day. But we are functioning more in urban areas,” said an Akshaya Patra spokesperson.
The notifications also seek to fix responsibility for non-supply of food for three consecutive school days or five days in a month. Under new rules, mid-day meals should be mandatorily tested by accredited labs each month for quality and nutrition. An allowance will also be provided by the government if food is not given.