State lags behind, no eggs, milk in midday meals yet

Aman Sood & Karam Prakash

Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 20

The food basket of India is failing its young generation. The land of Milkha Singh, hockey legend Balbir Singh and scores of great sportsmen has miserably failed to provide one nutritional meal to its sporting future. Punjab kids do not have access to milk, eggs and non-vegetarian food in the only meal provided to them in government schools as a part of the Midday Meal Scheme.

Nutrition and caloric value are questionable in the midday meals provided at government schools. While majority of the states in the country have switched to rich nutritional items such as egg and milk – termed as complete food – lakhs of students in Punjab continue with the traditional menu. Eggs, banana and milk are still not part of the midday meal in government schools where dal, rice and seasonal vegetables are the norm.

The 10th Joint Review Mission’s Punjab report on the scheme had disclosed that the meal did not meet the stipulated nutritional and calorific norms.

In fact, the average cereal intake of primary schoolchildren was 96.8 g/day as against the stipulated nutrition norm of 100 g/day, while among upper primary schoolchildren, it was 106 g/day against 150 g/day. The energy and protein consumption of upper primary schoolchildren was about 411.64 kcal/student/day and 15.7 g/student/day against 700 kcal and 15-18 gm, respectively, which were inadequate as per the scheme’s nutrition norms.

Nutritionists and pediatricians insist that eggs can assist in providing a complete and balanced diet to children. The inclusion of eggs is recommended because of their protein along with digestibility and high biological value.

“How can we eye Olympic medals and even think of making quality athletes from this generation which gets such under-calorific meal in their growing days?” said sports coach. “These poor children are dependent on government funds for one meal and are our future in boxing, hockey, judo, athletics and soccer. But this is how we are killing their dreams,” said a government coach.

Currently, the state is providing dal, chapatti, rice, seasonal vegetables and kadhi pakoda. The only respite is kheer, provided once a week to all students.

When contacted, Education Department officials said they had already sent a proposal of Rs 118 crore for the introduction of one of the three: Egg, banana or milk in the diet. An official said, “The file pertaining to introduce milk, banana or milk is with the Finance Department. As soon as we get an approval, we will introduce one of the three things in the meal.”

Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla said, “The Punjab Chief Minister has been already apprised of the issue. He is keen to add egg, milk or other nutritional food items in the midday meal. The budget for the addition will be borne by the state government.”

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