While the primary objectives of Mid-day Meal Programme are to avoid classroom hunger, improve school enrolment and attendance, and address the issue of malnutrition, the benefits of this scheme go well beyond these objectives.
The Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) in its full-fledged form was implemented in 2004 to address two key issues: hunger and education. As a part of this scheme, a wholesome meal is provided to all children in the 6 to 14 age group studying in government and government-aided schools, making nutritious meal a reality for children who otherwise can’t afford a square meal.
With the implementation of this scheme, it became easier for the authorities to convince people to send their children to school. Children, for their part, were more than eager to come to school, as a result of which school enrolment and attendance improved. It also helped in solving the problem of classroom hunger—one of the main reasons for lack of concentration in school children.
Over the years, the Mid-day Meal Scheme has done a fair bit to eradicate hunger and promote education, but these are not the only two areas where the scheme has helped. There exist other areas where the indirect impact of the same has been felt.
It Promotes Socialisation
Among the less-known advantages of mid-day meal scheme, one of the most important is the fact that it fosters the habit of eating together in children. The sight of all children coming together every afternoon for their meal is a sight to treasure. This intermingling improves unity among them. You can never stress enough on the importance of socialisation in India. The ambitious mid-day meal programme has helped ensure that caste, religion, or other similar factors don’t come in between children and education.
It Provides Employment Opportunities
The Mid-day Meal Programme is the largest school meal programme in the world, feeding over 120 million children of over 1 million schools. But obviously, an operation of this scale will require a huge workforce. According to the data put forth by the Government, the Programme employs around 2.6 million people across the country as cooks and helpers.
Besides the cooks and helpers hired by schools, there are several individuals who are employed by the NGOs who have got into a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Government to implement this scheme. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which feeds over 1.5 million school children across ten states of India, hires about 6300 people. The not-for-profit organisation based out of Bengaluru also operates two decentralised kitchens where women self-help groups (SHGs), who have a better idea of the local palette, are employed.
The guidelines put forth by the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE), state that the Government should ‘mobilize community support and promote public-private partnership for the programme’ wherever possible.
Yet another less-known benefit of the mid-day meal scheme is that it helps the local economy as perishable commodities, like vegetables, dals, oil, etc., are purchased from the local market.
In essence, the Mid-day Meal Programme has done a lot for the children of our country. However, considering the vast size of our country, we understand that there’s a lot to be done. If we are to achieve this, we need to work together; all of us, Central and state governments, partnering NGOs, communities, and every single stakeholder.
Akshaya Patra has been working in this field for more than 15 years now, so we can say we can confidently say we have enough experience and expertise required to take things ahead. What we need is your support through online donation to ensure that more children reach school and script their own future.