Students can only bring rotis and one dry curry, made without garlic and onions. Even curries made with two or more vegetables aren’t allowed.

No eggs rice meat or noodles Hyd school bans kids from bringing these items for lunchImage for representation
news Food Fascism Friday, July 13, 2018 - 17:03

Maheshwari Vidyalaya in Hyderabad has banned students from bringing eggs, noodles, rice and non-vegetarian food in their lunch boxes. This came to light after a city-based child rights group, Balala Hakkula Sangham, was tipped off by a group of parents, who wished to maintain anonymity.

In a conversation between the school management and the organisation - an audio clip of which is in TNM’s possession - the school administrator, Mounika, purportedly can be heard saying rice and noodles are not allowed as they make mothers “lazy”, who often pack previous day’s food that can make the children fall sick.

She can further be heard saying that non-vegetarian food is not allowed as children from specific communities where meat is prohibited might end up eating it from their peers’ lunch boxes, without realising that it hurts the sentiments of their religion or community.

Speaking to TNM, Achyuta Rao, president of Balala Hakkula Sangham, said that the school has been threatening parents saying they will expel their children if they raise any objections to the food ban.

“The school only allows children to bring meals that consist of chapatis, with one dry vegetable curry. Adding further specifications, the curry should not be made with onions and garlic, and should only have a single vegetable. No mixed curries are allowed. The school staff regularly inspects the students’ tiffin boxes and punish those kids who do not comply with these obnoxious rules,” Rao said.

When contacted, the school denied the allegations and said that it has only ‘advised’ parents as to which food items are ‘healthy’ and which ones are not.

“We do not mind kids bringing bread, idli, dosa or any vegetarian food to the school. Rotis and dry curries are preferable as they do not make tiffins ‘clumsy’. Our teachers take extra efforts to ensure that the kids finish their lunch boxes. As far as the school management’s knowledge, we have not received any complaints from parents criticising our food choices,” Mounika said.

Further defending the school management, she said that if students want to eat non-vegetarian food, they should eat it at home. “No school allows non-vegetarian in the campus. There are about 1,000 children in our school. If most of them bring non-vegetarian, it will spoil the environment of the school. Children should bring simple food to the school and should avoid getting non-vegetarian food in the lunch box,” the school spokesperson said.

Maheshwari Vidyalaya, which was established in 1995, has also has put a blanket ban on any food item made of egg, which is mandatorily provided in government schools as part of the mid-day meal scheme. There have been times when students have been punished on the suspicion of them consuming non-veg food inside the school premises, parents allege.

Rao said that Mounika had said that eggs and meat are banned as it is a ‘Maheshwari community’ school.

Balala Hakkula Sangham has now filed a complaint against Maheshwari Vidyalaya with the district educational officer in Hyderabad for imposing dietary regulations on students and forcing parents to prepare food items that comply to the management’s religious sentiments.

Speaking to TNM, city-based nutritionist Sujatha Stephen says, “Lunch is the most important meal of the day. Especially for kids who need maximum nutrition during the day. If not meat, the school should make sure that food items like dal, chana or rajma is added to the diet. They are the primary sources of protein, the lack of which can have a serious impact on the kids during their growing age. From stunted mental growth to lack of body building, such rules out rightly violate children’s rights to have nutritious food.”