What is Mid-Day Meal?
Mid-day meal (MDM) is a wholesome freshly-cooked lunch served to children in government and government-aided schools in India. On 28 November 2001, the Supreme Court of India passed a mandate stating, "We direct the State Governments/Union Territories to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary School with a prepared mid-day meal."
Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to:
- avoid classroom hunger
- increase school enrolment
- increase school attendance
- improve socialisation among castes
- address malnutrition
- empower women through employment
Implementation of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme:
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which was successfully implementing its own school lunch programme in Karnataka since 2000, was called in to give testimonies for verifying the efficacy of the scheme; following which the mandate to implement Mid-Day Meal Scheme was passed.
In order to successfully carry out this mandate, each State Government started its own Mid-Day Meal Programme with Akshara Dasoha being initiated by the Government of Karnataka.
One of the major challenges faced by the Government was the successful implementation of the scheme. As per the NP-NSPE, 2006 Guidelines (Mid-Day Meal Scheme Guidelines), wherever possible, the Government would mobilise community support and promote public-private partnership for the programme. Not-for-profits, such as Akshaya Patra, are therefore encouraged to set up operations and act as the implementing arm of the Government.
The Karnataka Human Development Report, 2005 states, ‘The recognition of the role of voluntary agencies in partnering with Government initiatives by the Centre may have had some influence in the initiatives taken by the Government of Karnataka to bring several NGOs into major Government sponsored programmes.’ As the report states, the Government of Karnataka was the first to take the step of involving NGOs in development programmes. Additionally, the report states that this ‘involvement of the NGOs in multilateral/bilateral programmes, raises the level of co-operation to another level. The NGOs become not only implementers; they also find a place in designing and managing programmes together with Government at all levels.’
This pioneering move by the Government of Karnataka to make NGOs the implementing arm of the Government has been one of the major reasons for its success in reaching the programme's goals. The achievements of these private-public partnerships have even influenced the Central Government. By setting up and encouraging private-public partnerships, the Government is successfully leveraging the skills and resources of the private sector for the greater good. India's Mid-Day Meal Scheme is one of the largest school lunch programmes in the world benefiting 9.78-crore children in 11.40-lakh schools (as per 2016-17 data).
Ugandan Parliament member, Honourable Babirye Kityo Sarah Breeze, visits Ahmedabad kitchen