Mid-day meals: Kids get broken rice, watery dal

Teachers say children who are in dire need of nutritious food are having to make do with smaller portions and tasteless food

Update: 2022-04-05 19:20 GMT
42 students of the government school in the Viswanagar area of Nandyal town in Kurnool district fell sick after having their mid-day meal at the school premises on Friday. (Representational Photo:DC)

Hyderabad: The state government pays Rs 4.97 per primary class student for mid-day meals and Rs 7.45 for every student in the upper primary classes and high school. In comparison, it pays Rs 18 per head for the subsidised Rs 5 meals at the Annapurna canteens.

Teachers say children who are in dire need of nutritious food are having to make do with smaller portions and tasteless food.

The mid-day meals in the government-run and aided schools are provided by Manna Trust, and the GHMC's Annapurna meals are prepared by the Hare Krishna Movement Charitable Trust.

Manna Trust said that it prepares the food at a centralised kitchen in the city and serves white rice and five different types of curries, one for each day of the week, and biryani on Saturday in the 690 government schools and 160 aided schools.

However, several government teachers that this correspondent spoke to said that dal which tasted the same was served on four days, spinach dal once a week and biryani on Saturdays.

"The dal or curry which looks and tastes similar is watery. Students do not eat the food as it does not taste good. The rice quality has gone down, and PDS rice is being served," said a headmaster of a government school. Despite several requests, the government has not taken action, he said.

"When we complain to the Manna Trust, they say that they have not been paid from the past year," the principal said.

A. Ashok, root coordinator, Manna Trust, said that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) must be questioned with regard to the quality of rice. Shravan Kumar, manager, Manna Trust, added that when the rice is supplied to them the government informs them about the percentage of grains being broken.

As per GO No. 75 dated August 29, 2020, which fixed the subsidy for the meals, Rs 2 has been allotted as cost of egg per day. Eggs are supposed to be served thrice a week, whereas students are served low-quality eggs only once or twice a week, said several government teachers.

Syamsunder, a government teacher in the city, said that two eggs were served per child every week and the quality of food served was poor. "The rice grains are broken; the government must serve better quality food. The cost per child for mid-day meals must also be increased to Rs 10," he said.

When asked about dal being watery, Manna Trust's Shravan claimed that those serving the food to students must mix the dal well. "We track the order every day and keep a record of food cans and eggs being sent to schools. We supply three eggs per week," Shravan claimed. A few government teachers did confirm that students are served three eggs a week.

Manna Trust, which prepares mid-day meals for government schools in the city, said that they had been instructed to prepare food for only half the school strength. "The enrolment number is different and the number of students opting for mid-day meals is different. We have been told that only half of the school strength has opted for a mid-day meal," said Shravan Kumar, manager, Manna Trust.

No survey has been conducted in schools where a student actually opts for mid-day meals, said CH. Ravi, general secretary, Telangana State United Teachers' Federation (TSUTF). "The subsidy cost paid to trusts is too low. Bad quality rice is served in the name of fine rice. Thus, most of the students have stopped eating mid-day meals and get their own lunch boxes. In the state, overall, hardly one or two eggs are given to students per week. "

He said that the trusts which prepare and distribute food were not yet paid for three months by the government, something that Shravan confirmed. The trusts have a memorandum of understanding with the education department which says that they cannot stop the supply of mid-day meals, even if they are not paid in time.

Asked about these issues, an official from the education department said that there was a proposal to increase the cost per child for mid-day meals. "Around Rs 4.3 crore has been released recently by the government and the pending payments are likely to be cleared soon," the official said.

The subsidy cost has not been given and efforts are being made to cover them in the new proposal, the official said.

With regard to the meal count, he said it depended on the previous day's attendance in schools. The attendance is usually low on weekends. "Field deputy inspectors are supposed to monitor the mid-day meals in the schools," said the official who requested anonymity.

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