Relooking at Mid-day Meal Scheme - A Case for Health and Education by malj


  A Case For Health And Education

           Sukanya Mohanty

             Research Centre

Mid Day Meal Scheme

School lunch programme was first introduced in 1925 in Madras
(present day Chennai)

By 1950s was adopted by different states

An anti-poverty-cum-nutritional support programme primarily till

In 1995, it was launched as the National Programme of Nutritional
Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE)

1995 onwards, an explicit link between nutrition and education goals
was established

Current Objectives

The objectives of the MDM Scheme are:

Improving the nutritional status of children in classes I-V in Government,
Local Body and Government aided schools, and EGS and AIE centers.

Encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend
school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities.

Providing nutritional support to children of primary stage in drought
affected areas during summer vacation.


Evidence of impact of the MDM Scheme are seen in
the following:
•   Enrolment
•   Attendance
•   Classroom hunger alleviation
•   Nutritional status
•   Social equity
•   Entry point

Education Benefits

Rani and Sharma (2008): Increase in attendance rates, Orissa

Dreze and Goyal (2003): Increase in enrolment rates, Chhattisgarh,
Rajasthan and Karnataka

Ramachandran (2003): Short-term hunger affects child’s ability to
concentrate, learn and retain new concepts in the classroom

Bennett (2003); Dreze & Goyal (2003): MDM Scheme impacts short-term
hunger and thereby, helps improve enrolment as well as attendance
rates in schools.

Nutrition Benefits

Agarwal (1987): MDM Scheme along with micronutrient
supplementation benefits nutritional status of the children

Afridi (2005): Nutrients intake, comparison of mid day meals in
different programmes, M.P.

Gopaldas (2003): Successful experience in combining MDMS with micro
nutrient supplements and de-worming, Gujurat

Other Benefits

Ritika Khera (2002), CES Survey (2003): Increase in female enrolment
rates in Rajasthan

Anima Rani (2008): 6 times increase in enrolment rates of STs in Orissa

Dreze and Goyal (2003): Scope for female employment in rural areas, 3

A. Rajivan (2003): An entry point for the Govt. to initiate programmes in

Critical Significance of MDMS

Education benefits

Nutrition benefits- closely linked with the health of the child

Social equity benefits

MDG (1-4) are closely linked with the objectives and impact of Mid-Day Meal (MDM)
 • MDG 1:   Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
 • MDG 2:   Achieve universal primary education
 • MDG 3:   Promote gender equality and empower women
 • MDG 4:   Reduce child mortality
Conceptualization as well as implementation of MDM Scheme puts forth a case for
education and health

Missing Links

Studies indicate that inter linkages exist between:

•   enrolment
•   classroom hunger alleviation
•   attendance in schools
•   nutritional support for the children

Yet at conceptual and implementation level, these MDM
Scheme objectives reflect the interlink and mutual effect
between health and education goals somewhat haphazardly

Nutrition and Health Link

Nutritional support is perceived as a facilitator for education

Link is established between education and nutrition without
extending it to health at a conceptual level
• nutritional status and morbidity patterns need to be seen as complimentary
  and as interrelated (Baru, 2008)
• high rates of morbidity for 0-6 years (FOCUS survey, 2006)
• high rates of malnutrition for 0-3 years (NFHS-3 data)

Programmatically MDM Scheme and School Health Services
work separately on nutrition and morbidity issues

Classroom Hunger:
Education and Health Linkage

Class room hunger alleviation has positive impact on

Questions remain:

What does the MDM’s stipulated 300 calorie and 8-12
grams of protein mean for classroom hunger?

Does a poor redressal of classroom hunger imply lesser
impact on learning?

Classroom Hunger:
Education and Health Linkage Studies

MDM’s meaning for classroom hunger:

Dismal performance of mid-day meals in terms of quantity and quality of food (Afridi, 2005)

Unequal distribution of food, wherein younger ones were served less food in Delhi (De, A., 2003)

Varied menu is more nutritious
 • Afridi’s study in M.P. found that the (suruchi bhojan) met 22% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
   intake in comparison to 11% RDA intake met with the traditional menu (daliya) for 5-7 year age group. Similar
   differences for 7-9 year age group seen.

Providing meals does not necessarily mean they are eaten by the children
 • Afridi (2005) found that 18 to 35 % of the households were dissatisfied with mid-day meal programs run in M.P.
   due to poor taste of the food.The quality of food is better when varied menu is served, this in turn, could have better
   consequences for reducing classroom hunger.

Misaligned Roles for Joint Goals

Taking further the issue of the functionaries involved, as is the case
with MDM Scheme implementation, the teachers are involved as
responsible for the delivery of cooked meals in the schools
 • Teachers do not often know what nutrition means for the children when they serve the
   food, they only know of the SC written order, stipulating provision of 300 calories of
   energy and 8-12 gms of protein in meals.This does not help the way nutritional support
   is provided to children in schools.

 • Besides, the teachers are overburdened with the task of managing the MDM Scheme.
   This affects the process and quality of education in the schools and actually puts
   nutritional support in opposition to the education goal. (Anima Rani 2008) As in the case
   of Orissa, on one hand the meals were helping the afternoon attendance (the child did
   not go home for lunch and stay back), but on the other hand, teachers were exhausted
   to teach in the classrooms.

Need for Changes

At present MDM Scheme implementation involves more of a
standalone approach with much politicization of its whole
process, wherein there is not only a delink from health goals
but also an alienation from quality education goals

Health and Education: Suggestions

Reorganize the goals of MDM Scheme, put health along with
nutrition as one of its key objectives. (nutrition and health

Link MDM Scheme more actively with School Health Services
and Health Education, which are managed by the Health
Department. This will also take care of micro nutrient
supplementation, morbidity issues then. (nutrition and health

 Health and Education: Suggestions…
Relook at the functionaries involved in implementation of MDM Scheme.
There is a need to put specific functionaries for implementation who can look
at morbidity as well as nutritional profile of the child. This will not only help
link nutrition with health, but also will relieve the teachers of overburden due
to mid-day meals related work.- (education and health goals)

There is a need for revamping the quality of mid-day meals. Also there is a
need to relook at the nutrient intake stipulated from the perspective of RDA
as well as food availability in different regions. –(nutritional support)

Mandatorily varied menu needs to be served in all schools, which will help
make the school a more exciting place for the children- (nutritional support,
attendance and retention)


To top