More than two decades after the introduction of the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme, the quality and quantity of food served is still a matter of concern for students as well as teachers.
While a large number of schoolchildren are complaining that the free-meals given to them are “substandard”, teachers and principals of various schools are questioning the centralised kitchen system.
At present in Indore (urban and rural), the scheme covers more than 68,000 children from 1,169 primary schools and more than 39,000 students from 624 government middle school and aided schools. Around Rs 4.5 lakh is allotted to be spent every day on food, but in reality hardly 15 to 20% of the schoolchildren eat this food following its poor quality.
“The dal and the chappatis which are served to us are substandard. Chappatis are not made properly and it tastes like rubber, while the dal is watery.
Moreover, we are not getting food items as per the daily menu on a regular basis,” Sapna Tirole (15), a class 7 student of MIG situated government school said. When asked if they were getting halwa through the scheme, Bhavana Gothwal (13), a class eighth student said, “We don’t know that we are supposed to get halwa under the scheme.”
Apart from students, teachers and principals at various schools too have raised question about the quality of food. A government school principal said on the condition of anonymity that before the centralised kitchen system was introduced in 2007, the quality of food was good as it was prepared at the schools but after the centralised kitchen system was implemented the quality deteriorated.
However, officials at Hyderabad-based Nandi Foundation which cooks and supplies the meals in all the urban areas are in denial mode.
When contacted RS Pandey, manager, Nandi Foundation, Indore denied the allegations. “Here at Nandi Foundation, we cooked mid-day meal for more than 28,000 schoolchildren every day. We never compromise with the quality of food and also follow the menu chart,” Pandey said and added that the nutritionists regularly monitor the quality of food.
On how the foundation redresses complaints related to poor quality, Pandey said they had never received any complaint. However, Mukesh Verma, mid-day meal project manager in Indore, admitted that there are some problems with chappatis served in the meals. He, however, assured that it will be rectified soon.
“There is problem with chappatis as they are manufactured largely through automated processes, but in rural area they were okay. The problem will be redressed soon as the district administration’s MDM cell is looking to approach Akshay Patra Foundation in this part of the state. The foundation is doing exceptionally well in the neighbouring state of Gujarat and hopefully the problem will be corrected soon,” Verma said. Verma, however, stressed that the menu for the meals are being strictly followed by the Nandi Foundation.