Eggs, bananas to be served with midday meals across Karnataka schools for 46 days

Last year, to tackle severe malnutrition, the government had implemented the project (of providing eggs or bananas) to students in seven districts.
Children eating mid-day meals in a school.
Children eating mid-day meals in a school.
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To tackle malnutrition in the state, the Karnataka government has approved the supply of eggs or bananas/chikki to students in government and aided schools in all districts. This is mandatory for students of classes 1-8, for a period of 46 days. Earlier, to tackle severe malnutrition the government had implemented the project (of providing eggs or bananas) to students in seven districts — Bidar, Ballari (including Vijayanagara), Kalaburagi, Raichur, Koppal, Yadgir and Vijayapura. This pilot was implemented for 46 days last year, for students of Classes 1-8. The same has now been extended to all the districts.The Commissioner of Public Instruction had recommended the supply of eggs/banana/chikki to school children from Classes 1 to 10 for a period of 100 days in all the districts. 

The programme was done as part of the ‘Flexibility for Innovative Intervention’ project of the PM’s Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (midday meal) scheme. On July 19, the Additional Secretary to the Finance Department signed a notification that agreed to extend the scheme to all parts of the state, while also renewing it in the original eight districts. The eggs or bananas/chikkis would cost Rs 6 per student, per day. 

Schools have been ordered to provide only quality eggs and bananas, and while the procurement is up to the school, the cost will be borne by the state and Union government on a 60-40 basis. The scheme will cost Rs 6 per student per day.

Several civil society groups, NGOs and activists have been advocating for many years to include eggs in midday meals, saying it makes a considerable impact on the battle against malnutrition. When eggs were served in the eight districts last year, it was opposed by Hindu religious leaders who claimed that it affects the ‘food culture’ of Karnataka. However, a recent study commissioned by the state government showed that the inclusion of eggs in midday meals showed improvement in children’s nutritional levels and body weight in seven districts. 

The study contradicted the stand of a government-formed committee to submit a position paper on ‘health and wellbeing’ for the National Education Policy (2020). The paper, which will eventually be submitted to the Union government and NCERT, claimed that eating eggs leads to “lifestyle disorders” like obesity. It adds that “serving other recipes or foods to the same graders, such as egg versus grams, or egg versus banana, leads to a nutritional imbalance among children”. This can result in complexes developing in children leading to “emotional distress”, the paper claims, adding, “treating all children equally and with no to ‘Pankti Bedha’ (food discrimination) is authentic Indian philosophy or Dharma.” 

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