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In 2018, govt panel said add breakfast in midday meal. 3 yrs & revamp later, it’s still missing

The 2018 report said over 38% children in govt schools attend classes without breakfast, which affects their focus. Govt says working towards it, but 'facing a fund crunch'.

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New Delhi: In 2018, a government-appointed committee had found that over 38 per cent children in government schools attend classes without having breakfast, and that the food served under the midday meal scheme is their first meal of the day. The committee had then recommended that breakfast be served at schools.

However, three years and a revamp later, the central government is yet to include breakfast in the scheme.

The Ministry of Education last week announced a revamp of the existing midday meal scheme — now called the ‘PM Poshan’ scheme — extending it to pre-school children.

Talking about the scheme, education minister Dharmendra Pradhan had told reporters, “Breakfast under the meal scheme has not been approved yet, but we are working positively towards it.”

The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 also talks about serving breakfast to children as part of the meal scheme. “Research shows that the morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects and hence these hours may be leveraged by providing a simple but energising breakfast in addition to midday meals. In locations where hot meals are not possible, a simple but nutritious meal, e.g., groundnuts/chana mixed with jaggery and/or local fruits may be provided,” the policy says.

The official spokesperson of the education ministry, however, cited a “financial crunch” as the reason for the government’s inability to include breakfast in the PM Poshan scheme.

“The government is positive about providing breakfast under its meal scheme, but is currently facing a financial crunch,” the spokesperson told ThePrint.

ThePrint reached the ministry’s official communication channel, the Press Information Bureau, for a comment on the findings of the 2018 report, but there was no response till the publication of this report.

Also read: In Covid year, UP dispatched 3 midday meal rations, but some students are still waiting

What the 2018 study found

The committee’s 2018 report recommended that breakfast be served to children at school because many of them attend classes on empty stomach, and are thus unable to concentrate on studies.

“Children wait till noon to eat a meal at school, which is their first meal of the day, and that hampers their learning levels,” a member of the committee told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

According to members of the committee, their mandate was to study the overall implementation of the scheme across India, and they found that it was doing well in most parts of the country, except in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

A. Laxmaiah, an epidemiologist and public health nutrition specialist who works as an adviser on the meal scheme and was also a part of the committee, told ThePrint: “Our study showed that the scheme is being implemented well in most parts of the country. Attendance and improvement of nutrition level among children are the two targets being met through the scheme.”

Laxmaiah said the most striking data that the committee found in its survey was that 38 per cent of children come to school without eating breakfast and then wait for the school to serve them a meal at noon. “We recommended to the government that they should serve breakfast as part of their meal scheme and they seem to be working towards it,” he added.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: Midday meal scheme is now PM Poshan, but name change isn’t the only difference


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