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Coronavirus outbreak: Diets of Chandigarh’s govt school students take a hit in absence of mid-day meals

Only students appearing for examinations are being served meals, food is being prepared in just one kitchen and most cooks have been put on leave
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Srishti Jaswal
UPDATED ON MAR 19, 2020 02:00 AM IST

Priya Chauhan, a student of Class 8 of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 25, said she hasn’t eaten a full meal in three days. “My stomach aches. I feel fatigued and don’t want to study,” she said.

Students studying in government schools across Chandigarh say they are starving in the absence of mid-day meals. Schools have been closed by the UT administration as a measure to battle the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Priya’s neighbour Rachna, a student of Class 4 in Government Model High School, Sector 24, said she ate ‘some’ food at school today where she appeared for an exam.

“I ate sambhar chawal after many days as I had an exam,” she said. When asked what she had eaten in the last couple of days, she had no answer.

Priya’s father picks rags in neighbouring sectors while her mother works as a domestic help.Rachna’s father is a garbage collector.

In over 120 government schools, only students who come to give their exams are being served food under the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme.

The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE), popularly known as MDM, aims to cover students of Classes 1 to 8 in government schools and Madrasas.

One of the primary aims of the scheme is to improve nutritional status of students of elementary classes.

As per the Chandigarh education department’s website 98,754 students in the city’s 123 government schools are eligible for the mid-day meal scheme but at present meals for only 45,000 to 50,000 students are supplied which is shared by about 65,000 to 70,000 students. The cooking cost per meal ranges between 4.35 to 6.51.

Dr Rachna Shrivastava from the department of public health, PGIMER, said, “If children are not provided with proper nourishment for 15 days, it will have a long lasting impact on their health. Even two days of diarrhoea is enough to impact a child’s health permanently. If schools are closed for the next two weeks, it will be very difficult for the children to recover.”

STAFF ON LEAVE

Deputy district education officer of Chandigarh, Harbir Anand, said, “Currently, we are serving meals only to students appearing for examinations. Most cooks are on leave as work is less. We have also decided that food will be prepared in just one kitchen.”

“Moreover, examinations are scheduled to end in a day or so after which no mid-day meal will be served.”

On normal days, food is prepared at Ambedkar Institute of Hotel Management, Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management and Hotel Shivalikview, besides seven cluster kitchens.

Rubinderjit Singh Brar, director school education (DSE) said, “We are responsible for students during school hours only. After that, it is the department of family and social welfare’s responsibility. We will be able to do something about this only if specific directions are issued to us.”

When asked if there is a solution to the issue, Anand said, “If we deliver food to students, it will defeat the entire purpose of stopping community transfer of the virus. ”

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