MDM nutrition feels the heat as prices of essentials sizzle- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Amid skyrocketing prices of vegetables and pulses, providing cooked nutritional meal to 44.2 lakh students in 51,000 primary and upper primary schools (Class I to VIII) of the state has become a challenge for headmasters, responsible for implementing the mid-day meal ( MDM) scheme. The MDM expenditure is Rs 5.90 for a primary student (Class 1 to V) and Rs 8.82 for an upper primary student, as per the state project monitoring unit of MDM. The last revision of MDM cost was carried out in October 2022 but by now, almost every vegetable sells beyond Rs 60 per kg.

Under the MDM menu, children are served rice with ‘dalma’ on Mondays and Thursdays, soybean curry on Tuesdays and Fridays and egg curry on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Although schools are somehow procuring eggs and soybeans, vegetables have gone out of their reach. “There is nothing wholesome or nutritional about the dalma being served in mid-day meals now. It just has potatoes and pumpkin (the cheapest options available) in it. We cannot even afford brinjal which is selling at Rs 60 per kg now,” said a headmaster from Sonepur district, unwilling to be quoted. Even the tuber is now selling at Rs 25 a kg.

The MDM expenditure is shared in a 60:40 ratio between the Center and the state and while the former provides rice free of cost, the latter has engaged SHGs to procure vegetables, pulses, oil and condiments and cook the meals. Headmasters, who oversee the MDM, admitted the only way they are able to serve MDM is by compromising with the quality and manipulating attendance sheets. Some are even selling excess rice to meet the expenses. The state still does not have a system to check the quality of ingredients used and cooked food being served at schools.

“The MDM price per student is fixed and within that, we have to pay for vegetables, eggs and dal. We are forced to opt for vegetables which are cheapest in the market. Even for eggs, if we buy it at wholesale rate, we have to pay Rs 5 per piece. And if Rs 5 is spent on an egg, where is the money left even for the staple potatoes in the curry or fuel and oil,” asked Sanjulata Mallik of Bankeswari SHG that manages MDM in the school at Lanjia village in Kukudahada block of Ganjam.

Unless the government decides to substantially hike the MDM cost, education and child rights activists say, the objective of providing minimum nutrition and calories to the students stands defeated “Addressing nutrition concerns in children is the primary aim behind the MDM scheme but that cannot be done with the existing meal expense,” said Naba Kishore Pujari, a child rights activist.

State Nodal Officer of Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM-POSHAN) Raghuram R Iyer said Center can effect a hike in MDM cost but there has been no notification in this regard so far. “The per unit cost and nutritional intake per child per day is fixed by the Center under the PM-POSHAN scheme of the Ministry of Education. We are waiting for the Centre’s directive on increasing the expenditure in wake of the price rise of vegetables,” he added.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top