The concept of “Mid Day Meal” was introduced back in 1925 in Madras Municipal Corporation so as to improve the effectiveness of primary education by improving the nutritional levels of school children. The program was universalised by the mid-1980s in states like Kerala, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, and Pondicherry for primary school children and by the year 1997, the National Program of Nutritional Support to Primary Education initiated by the Government introduced it in all districts of the country.
However, the 4,000 crore breakfast plan proposed to benefit children in government schools has hit a wall with the Finance Ministry refusing the approval on the account of funding constraints. The Centre had proposed before the Cabinet to consider serving breakfast along with a meal days after the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) showed an alarming drop in the nutritional level of children between the years 2015-2019. It is disheartening to know that eighteen states reported an increase in the number of children who are underweight, stunted or wasted under the age group of five.
The Education Ministry confirmed that the Finance Ministry has okayed the extension of mid-day meals to pre-primary classes, it did not agree to the breakfast proposal. The Ministry, as per the records of the parliamentary committee meetings, stated that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has denied the inclusion of provision of breakfast to pre-primary and elementary classes and provision of utensils but the matter would now be submitted to the Cabinet for the continuation of the Midday Meal (MDM) scheme up to 2025-26.
The proposal is strongly backed by the National Education Policy, 2020 as it noted that children are unable to learn optimally when they are undernourished and a single hot cooked meal in the afternoon is not enough to meet required nutrition levels.