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How Children In Karnataka Benefit From Mid-day Meal Scheme?
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The Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a government initiative to provide cooked school lunch to children of government and government-aided schools. During 2001-02, the Karnataka State Government implemented the Mid-Day Meal Programme in seven educationally and economically backward north-eastern districts of the state. Eventually, this scheme was extended to other districts of the state in a phased manner.
Over the years, the scheme underwent quite a few alterations. Initially cooked mid-day meal was provided only for children of classes 1 to 5 in government schools. Later, it was extended to children of classes 1 to 5 of government-aided primary schools too. Strategically, the scheme was extended to cover children from classes 6 to 8. And, presently the Government of Karnataka is providing freshly cooked meals to children of classes 1 to 10 of both government and government-aided schools.
The history of mid-day meal dates back to the pre-independence era in 1925 when the Madras Municipal Corporation introduced this scheme for disadvantaged children.
Karnataka’s nutritional and educational status
According to NFHS III, Karnataka is battling to counter 43% infant mortality rate, 54.7% under-5 mortality rate, 42.4% under-three stunted children, 33.3% under-three underweight children, and 70.4% under-six anaemic children. In view of this, the Karnataka State Government announced a Comprehensive Nutrition Mission in 2010, the first of its kind in the country, with the aim to “address the scourge of malnutrition and anaemia particularly among children and women in a sustainable manner and also provide nutritional security to all the vulnerable groups.” Over the years, the efforts and provisions made by the government have shown results by reducing the number of malnourished children from 10. 97-lakh in 2013 to 7.67-lakh in 2017.
In the literacy front, Karnataka fairs quite well with a literacy rate of 75.60%, a little above India’s average literacy rate of 74.04% (Census 2011). It has also shown steady improvement from the literacy rate of 67.04% in Census 2001.
Impact of mid-day meal and its recent developments
Based on a first of its kind survey conducted during the first quarter of the fiscal April-June 2013, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development had announced state-wise ranking in mid-day meal implementation wherein Karnataka emerged as the topmost state with a score of 77.79%. Also in a recent publication, it was reported that currently 1 crore government school children in Karnataka are benefitting from the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. These children are also receiving milk five days a week under the Ksheera Bhagya Scheme. Government schemes like Akshara Dasoha and Ksheera Bhagya have been effective in reducing school drop-out rate from 7,00,000 in 2001 to 90,000 in 2016.
In order to make the mid-day meal more nutritious, the Karnataka State Government in January 2018 launched a pilot to introduce millets in the mid-day meal scheme. This is a joint initiative of the Government of Karnataka and The Akshaya Patra Foundation with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) as the knowledge partner. The pilot will cover 1,622 beneficiaries across 10 government and government-aided schools who will receive millet-based items like upma, bisibelebath, sweet and khara pongal twice a week in addition to the existing mid-day meal menu from Akshaya Patra’s centralised kitchens. Based on the health and growth report of these beneficiaries over a period of 6-8 months, the government will consider to extend the implementation of the initiative to other schools across the state.
Impact of Akshaya Patra in Karnataka
The success of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the state is also attributed to the efforts of the not-for-profit organisations like The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO in Bangalore, that work in collaboration with the State Government. Akshaya Patra has been implementing the school meal programme in Karnataka since 2000. After the Supreme Court’s mandate in 2001, the Foundation partnered with the Government of Karnataka and since then has been an active implementing arm of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. Currently, Akshaya Patra benefits 4,86,172 children across Karnataka from its seven centralised kitchens.
The Government of Karnataka and other State Governments in partnership with NGOs are working tirelessly to improve the nutrition levels of children while supporting their education too. However, this effort also requires involvement from the civil society i.e. you and me. Akshaya Patra provides a platform for all of us to get involved with the cause of children. By contributing online donations for NGO, you will directly impact the lives of millions of children, not just in Karnataka but the entire nation.
I'm a social volunteer, lives in Bengaluru. I do work for NGOs to make society better. Currently I'm working for The Akshaya Patra Foundation. It's an NGO in India which provides wholesome nutritious mid-day meals to government school children to end classroom hunger. https://www.akshayapatra.org/
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