Mid-Day Meal Scheme

Mid-Day Meal Scheme

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme is the popular name for school meal programme in India which started in the 1960s.It involves provision of lunch free of cost to school-children on all working days. The key objectives of the programme are: protecting children from classroom hunger, increasing school enrolment and attendance, improved socialisation among children belonging to all castes, addressing malnutrition, and social empowerment through provision of employment to women. The scheme has a long history especially in the state of Tamil Nadu introduced statewide by the then Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in 1960s and later expanded by M. G. Ramachandran government in 1982 has been adopted by most of the states in India after a landmark direction by the Supreme Court of India on November 28, 2001.[1] The success of this scheme is illustrated by the tremendous increase in the school participation and completion rates in the state of Tamil Nadu.

12 crore (120 million) children are so far covered under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which is the largest school lunch programme in the world. Allocation for this programme has been enhanced from Rs 3010 crore to Rs 4813 crore (Rs 48 billion 1.3 million) in 2006-2007.



One of the pioneers of the scheme is the Madras that started providing cooked meals to children in corporation schools in the Madras city in 1923.The programme was introduced in a large scale in 1960s under the Chief Ministership of K. Kamaraj.The first major thrust came in 1982 when Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. M. G. Ramachandran, decided to universalise the scheme for all children up to class 10.Tamil Nadu’s mid-day meal programme is among the best known in the country. Less known, but equally interesting is the history of Pondicherry, which started universal school feeding as early as 1930.

There is an interesting story about how K. Kamaraj got the idea of a noon meal scheme.He saw a few boys busy with their cows and goats.He asked one small boy, "What are you doing with these cows? Why didn't you go to school?" The boy immediately answered, "If I go to school, will you give me food to eat? I can learn only if I eat." The boy's retort sparked the entire process into establishing the mid-day meal programme.

Several other states of India also have programmes.The most notable among them is Gujart that has had it since the late 1980s.Kerala started providing cooked meals in schools since 1995 and so did Madhya Pradesh and Orissa in small pockets.On November 28, 2001 the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark direction to government to provide cooked meals to all children in all government and government assisted primary schools.The direction was resisted vigorously by State governments initially, but the programme has become almost universal by 2005.

National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education

Although the programme in Tamil Nadu was initially termed as an act of "Populism", the success of the scheme made the project hugely popular. The success was so spectacular that in 1995, the then Indian prime minister P.V.Narsimha Rao hailed the success of the project and suggested that the scheme be implemented all over the country, and thus began the "National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education".

According to the programme the Government of India will provide grains free of cost and the States will provide the costs of other ingredients, salaries and infrastructure. Since most State governments were unwilling to commit budgetary resources they just passed on the grains from Government of India to the parents. This system was called provision of ‘dry rations’. On November 28, 2001 the Supreme Court of India gave a famous direction that made it mandatory for the state governments to provide cooked meals instead of ‘dry rations’. The direction was to be implemented from June 2002, but was violated by most States. But with sustained pressure from the court, media and in particular from the Right to Food Campaign more and more states started providing cooked meals.

In May 2004 a new coalition government was formed in the centre, which promised universal provision of cooked meals fully funded by the centre. This promise in its Common Minimum Programme was followed by enhanced financial support to the states for cooking and building sufficient infrastructure. Given this additional support the scheme has expanded its reach to cover most children in primary schools in India. In 2005 it is expected to cover 130 million children.

The Supreme Court Direction

In April 2001 People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Rajasthan) initiated the now famous right to food litigation. This public interest litigation has covered a large range of issues relating to right to food, but the best known intervention by the court is on mid-day meals. In one of its many direction in the litigation the Supreme Court directed the government to fully implement its scheme of providing cooked meals to all children in primary schools. This landmark direction converted the Mid-Day Meal Scheme into a legal entitlement, the violation of which can be taken up in the court of law. The direction and further follow-up by the Supreme Court has been a major instrument in universalising the scheme.

ISKCON Food Relief Foundation

The ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF) was established in year 2004 in Mumbai and objectives of IFRF is to eradicate hunger and promoting education amongst the under-privileged sections of the society and thereby ensuring their socio-economic development.

Akshaya Patra and private sector participation in mid-day meals

The State of Karnataka introduced the provision of cooked meals in June 2002. Since then it has successfully involved private sector participation in the programme. One of the successful ventures is Akshaya Patra, which started with freshly cooked meals from ISKCON temple in Bangalore. The Foundation gets a corpus from the State government but meets a major share of its costs with donations from private corporations and individuals in the city.

Naandi Foundation Midday meal programme

Naandi Foundation, is one of the largest and fastest growing social sector organisations in India working to make poverty history. In its effort to eradicate poverty it has been working in the fields of Child rights, Education, Sustainable livelihoods, Midday meal and Safe Drinking water since last decade.

To fulfill the motto towards eradicating poverty Naandi took its first step towards banishing hunger through its Midday meal programme. In partnership with state governments and through corporate donations Naandi runs several automated central Midday Meal Kitchens across the country. These kitchens prepare and deliver high-nutrition noon meals to lakhs of underprivileged children everyday. Naandi even delivers Midday meal in many tribal areas across its project areas in 4 states which includes Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. With a highly sophisticated centralised kitchen Naandi delivers food to nearly 8 lakhs children ( will touch a million soon) in every working days. The Midday Meal menu is decided in consultation with nutritionists from the National Institute of Nutrition. Feedback and suggestions from respective government school teachers are taken into consideration for further improvement. For locations such as Hyderabad, Naandi uses Global Positioning System (GPS), where they identified and mapped all the schools to determine the optimum way to transport food .

Naandi in partnership with the Government of Rajasthan (GoR) started the Hunger-Free programme on 1 May 2006 by providing cooked meals to the poorest of the poor at a very nominal price apart from its Midday meal programme.

Details of this can be viewed on http://www.naandi.org/

Other aspects of the programme

The programme in Gujarat also includes regular provision of iron tablets (to counter anaemia) and deworming tablets once in six months. In Tamil Nadu also the children are dewormed at regular intervals. Mid Day Meal scheme is implemented by Annamrit

School meal programmes in other parts of the world

A school meal programme is now a standard welfare measure for school children in developing as well as developed nations. Even countries such as USA have it in many states. World Food Programme, among other organisations, are involved in the programme in many countries across the world.


Various scams involving Mid-Day Meal Scheme have been unearthed since it was started.

In January 2006, the Delhi Police unearthed a scam in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.[2] In December 2005, the police had seized eight truckloads (2,760 sacks) of rice meant for primary schoolchildren being carried from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns in Bulandshahr District of UP to North Delhi. When the police detained the trucks, the drivers claimed that the rice was being brought all the way to Delhi to be cleaned at a factory. However, according to the guidelines, the rice has to be taken directly from FCI godown to the school or village concerned. Later it was found that the rice was being siphoned off by a UP-based NGO, Bharatiya Manav Kalyan Parishad (BMKP), in connivance with the government officials.

In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate (around 30 km from Darjeeling), accused a group of teachers of embezzling mid-day meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school had not got midday meal for the past 18 months.[3]

In December 2006, The Times of India reported a scam involving government schools that siphon off foodgrains under the mid-day meal scheme by faking attendance.[4] The modus operandi of the schools was simple—the attendance register would exaggerate the number of students enrolled in the class. The additional students would not exist—they were "enrolled" to get additional foodgrains which were pocketed by the school staff. The scam was exposed, when P Asha Kumari, an assistant teacher at the government model primary school, Jakkur, in Yelahanka acted as a whistleblower. She informed the Lok Ayukta, who conducted a probe and indicted four persons for misappropriation. The whistleblower was harassed by the school staff and requested a transfer. She was transferred to a government primary school at Cholanayakahalli, where she again found the same modus operandi being used to siphon off the foodgrains. She again complained to the Lok Ayukta, who issued notice to the school.


Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India. According to current statistics, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight. This is due to simple reasons such as not using iodized salt.[5] “India is home to the world’s largest food insecure population, with more than 200 million people who are hungry,” India State Hunger Index (ISHI) said, adding that the country’s poor performance is driven by its high levels of child under-nutrition and poor calorie count. “Its rates of child malnutrition is higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa,” it noted.[6] A report released as part of the 2009 Global Hunger Index ranks India at 65 out of 84 countries. The 2008 report says that India has more people suffering hunger - a figure above 200 million - than any other country in the world, it says. The report also says "improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in most Indian states".[7]

See also


  1. ^ http://www.sccommissioners.org/courtorders#mdm
  2. ^ "Lid off massive scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme: 2,760 sacks of rice seized". The Tribune, Delhi. 2006-01-20. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20060121/delhi.htm#1. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  3. ^ "Scam shadow on meal scheme". The Telegraph, Kolkata. 2006-11-14. http://telegraphindia.com/1061115/asp/siliguri/story_7001871.asp. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  4. ^ "Teacher blows whistle on scam: School Authorities Pocket Money In The Name Of Mid-Day Meal Scheme". The Times of India, Bangalore. 2006-12-02. 
  5. ^ Malnutrition of children in India continues
  6. ^ Child Malnutrition Problem in India
  7. ^ Hunger in India alarming

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