Issue: October 2016
Cover Story
Textiles’ – the word brings up images of beautiful drapes – cotton, silk, chiffon, lace. Whether it is the material draped on the figurine of the lady...
  Tapping Sustainable Energy Alternatives
  The second lead article, which is also focus article, is written by Shri N Bhadran Nair. Citing a report of the World Health Organisation, the author has advocated for tapping sustainable energy alternatives
  Financing Renewables in India
  The third article is written by Shri P C Maithani, Adviser, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. He has focussed on renewable energy resources
  Steps to Achieve India’s Solar Potential
  The special article is written by Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of ReNew Power. He opines that India must also honour its global commitments on curbing greenhouse gas emissions
  FightingClassroom Hunger- Achievements of
Mid Day Meal Scheme

Dr.Gracious James
September 01, 2013 | Dr.Gracious James  , Mid Day Meal

The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) which is popularly known as the Mid-day Meal Scheme was launched by the Government of India in 1995. NP-NSPE states that it aims to address classroom hunger and encourage poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities. The mid-day meal programme is a multi-faceted programme of the Government of India that, among other things, also seeks to address issues of food security, lack of nutrition and access to education on a nationwide scale. The Scheme is the worlds largest school feeding programme reaching out to about 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools/EGS centres across the country.

Anaemia and Malnutrition

The level of malnutrition is of great concern in India with over 40% of children being classified as undernourished. Under nutrition is highly prevalent among rural children in India. Survey among rural population of India, by National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau in 2002, reported prevalence of malnutrition, using Gomez classification to be 94.6% among 6-9 year and 97.1% in 10-13 year old. Anaemia affects over 3/4th of the school children due to low intake of iron and folic acid. The reasons for such high levels of malnutrition and anaemia are complex. They include poverty, gender inequity, specific dietary patterns and recurrent illness, all these acting in conjunction.

School feeding programmes are popular in the developing world and beyond, not only because of their educational but also for their nutritional benefits. Mid day meal acts as a regular source of supplementary nutrition for children, which facilitates their healthy growth. To achieve the objectives of the Scheme, the guidelines prescribe specific nutritional content in the mid day meal (see Table 1).




Upper Primary



450 calories

700 calories





Historical Development of the Mid Day Meal Scheme

Despite all its economic prosperity in certain areas, India lags behind on many social parameters. One of them is child nutrition and nourishment. 42% of the Indian children under the age of 5 are underweight. Most children belonging to the economically-backward background are foregoing schooling to supplement their family's income. The surest way to break out of the cycle of poverty is through education. Education can significantly improve the quality of life of a family for generations to come. When the basic needs of a child, such as food are not met, education often becomes the last priority.

According to the report of the Committee on Mid-Day Meals (1995), its first venture was in 1925. At that time, an MDM programme was introduced for children of poor socio economic status in the Madras Corporation area in the state of Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, in 1928, Keshav Academy of Calcutta introduced a compulsory Mid-day Tiffin for school boys. In 1941, Kerala started the School Lunch Programme. On 28 November 2001, the Supreme Court passed an interim order that provided for the conversion of eight food security schemes into entitlements (i.e. rights) of the poor. Between 2002 and 2004, however, most Indian states instituted universal midday meals in public primary schools. Prior to the formal launch of the Cooked Mid Day Meal programme, the practice of providing meals in schools was present in several states. Table 2 summarizes in chronological order of the launch of mid day meal in different states.

Table 2-Launch of the Mid Day Meal Scheme across States

Sl. No.

Name of States

Year of launching of MDM



Tamil Nadu


Started in Madras City by Madras Municipal Corporation & extended to full State in 1982.


West Bengal


Started in Calcutta city by Keshav Academy of Calcutta as compulsory Mid-day Tiffin on payment basis at the rate of four annas per child per month.




Started free mid day meal in Bombay. It was launched in 1995-96 as a centrally sponsored scheme.




Started in Bangalore city to provide cooked rice and yoghurt. There was provision of giving 3 kg of rice/wheat per month /per child who had 80% or more attendance in 1995. Cooked meal was started in 7 north eastern districts during 2002-03.


Uttar Pradesh


It introduced a scheme on voluntary basis to give boiled gram, ground-nut, puffed rice and seasonal fruits.




Scheme had been funded by CARE (Cooperate American Relief Everywhere) under US Assistance during the period 1960-1983 (in a pilot manner).




Started with dry ration of 3 kg/per student/per month and started providing cooked meal in 30 blocks of 10 districts in 2003-04


Andhra Pradesh


There was provision of giving 3 kg of rice/wheat per month per child with 80% or more attendance in school.


Madhya Pradesh


Initially dry rations or Dalia was provided.




Students of Government  Primary schools were provided wheat at the rate of  3 kg/ per student /per month


Arunachal Pradesh


Initially only dry ration was provided in five districts of the state, extended to all schools since 2004.




Students of Government Primary schools were provided wheat at the rate of 3 kg per student/ per month and switched over to cooked meal in one block of every district in 2002-03.




Initially implemented in 17 blocks of 6 districts & extended to 44 blocks where female literacy rate was lower than the national level in 1996-97.


Himachal Pradesh


Initially dry ration  was provided


Jammu & Kashmir


Initially dry ration  was provided




Started with dry ration of 3 kg per student /per month.




It was taken up on a pilot basis in 3140 government primary schools in 19 districts initially.

Source: Planning Commission, Govt.of India, 2010

Unique Features of the Scheme

The Cooked Mid-Day Meal (CMDM) was introduced in all government and government-aided primary schools in April 2002. CMDM scheme proposed to supply meal containing 300 calories and 8-12 grams of proteins to all children studying in classes I to V in government and government aided schools and Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS)/ Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE) centres w.e.f. September, 2004 (revised to 450 calories and 12 grams of protein with adequate quantities of micronutrients like iron, folic acid, and vitamin-A etc. w.e.f. June, 2006). During 2011-12, the scheme has further been revised as follows:

  1. The revision of norms for providing mid-day meal to NCLP children has been changed from Primary to Upper Primary children norms w.e.f. 1.11.2011.

  2. MME @ 1.8% of Cost of food grain, Cooking cost, Transportation and Honorarium to Cook-cum-Helpers is being provided to States w.e.f. 1.4.2011. Prior to this, MME was provided @1.8% of only three components i.e. Cost of food grain, Cooking cost and Transportation.

  3. Transportation assistance effective from 1.4.2010 in the 11 Special Category States have been made at par with the PDS rates prevalent in these States.

  4. As the system of payment of cost of food grains to FCI from the Government of India was prone to delays and risk, the payment of cost of food grains to the FCI has been decentralized at the district level w.e.f. 1.4.2010.

Central Government Assistance

Under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme Central Government provides:

(1)100% cost of the following components:

  1. Food grains: Supply of free food grains (wheat/rice) @ 100 grams per child per School Day at Primary classes (I-V) and 150 grams per child per School day at upper primary classes (VI-VIII).

  2. Transportation: Actual cost of transportation of food grains from nearest FCI godown to the Primary School.

  3. Management, Monitoring & Evaluation (MME): At the rate of 1.8% of total assistance on (a) free food grains, (b) transport cost and (c) cooking cost. Another 0.2% of the above amount is utilized at the Central Government level for management, monitoring and evaluation.

  4. One time Central Assistance is provided to States for construction of Kitchen Sheds @ Rs.60, 000 per unit and Rs.5000 for procurement/replacement of Kitchen Devices for each school covered under MDM Scheme.

(2) Central Assistance for Cooking Cost on sharing basis.

At Primary stage the Central Assistance towards cooking cost per child/school day is Rs.1.89 for NER States provided the States contribute minimum 20 paise and Rs. 1.58 for other States/UTs provided the State/UT contribute minimum 50 paise. At Upper Primary stage the Central Assistance towards cooking cost per child/school day is Rs.2.42 for NER States provided the States contribute minimum 20 paise and Rs.2.10 for other States/UTs.

Additional funds

To offset the impact of price rise, Central Assistance for cooking cost has been enhanced with effect from 1.4.2011 from Rs. 2.69 per child per school day to Rs. 2.89 at primary stage and from Rs. 4.03 per child per school day to Rs. 4.33 at upper primary stage. This includes cost of pulses, vegetables, oils, condiments and fuel. In addition, food grains(Wheat/Rice) are provided free of cost by the Central Government.

Redressal of grievances

In June 2010, guiding principles for setting up Grievance Redressal Mechanisms (GRMs) for registering complaints through toll free number/dedicated telephone number or through letters were issued to all States/UTs. Data on such complaints/grievances received and redressed through GRMs is maintained by the states. Any complaints of malpractices in the implementation of the Mid Day Meal Scheme that come to the notice of the Central Government are referred to the concerned States/UTs for investigations and appropriate remedial action. 92 complaints were received during 2009-2011 by various States. 25 complaints related to Poor Quality of Food; 3 each in Bihar & Haryana, 6 in Madhya Pradesh, 7 in Delhi. 27 complaints related to Corruption/misappropriation; 3 in Punjab, 4 in Madhya Pradesh and 10 in Uttar Pradesh. 9 complaints related to Caste discrimination; 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 4 in Madhya Pradesh. 31 complaints related to other irregularities; 7 in Bihar and 11 in Uttar Pradesh. 77 complaints have been addressed. 15 are pending; 9 complaints relate to other irregularities (4 of 2009 and 5 of 2011); 3 complaints relate to poor quality of food (1 of 2010 and 2 of 2011) 2 of corruption and 1 Caste discrimination in 2011. The concerned states have taken action on these complaints, which includes transferring the concerned Principal of School, recovering amount from the Gram Pradhan, suspending and initiating disciplinary proceedings against defaulting persons etc.

Monitoring of Mid-Day-Meal Scheme

To ensure effective implementation of the Mid-Day-Meal scheme, there is a detailed monitoring mechanism at the school, block, district, State and the National level. According to the reports of the State Governments, till 30th September 2010, 5, 20,891 inspections have been carried out. In addition 36 independent Monitoring Institutes have been engaged with defined terms of reference to monitor and supervise the Scheme on a biannual basis. The Supreme Court Commissioners have also evaluated the scheme in six States of the country.

Mid Day Meal Schemes Web Site

The Union Minister for Human Resource Development launched a comprehensive website: for creating greater awareness about the scheme to ensure transparency in the implementation of the scheme. The site provides detailed guidelines about the scheme; the Programme Approval Board approvals for various states/UTs as well as the physical and financial progress under the scheme. The site also brings out the innovative practices adopted by the various states. It also provides details about the key officers responsible for the scheme and their contact details.

Contributions and achievements of the Scheme

Findings of the evaluation studies by independent organizations in various states indicate the following impacts.

  • The Cooked Mid Day Meal Program has been successful in addressing classroom hunger in the beneficiary schools. This scheme helps overcome classroom hunger as many children come to school empty stomach or, those coming from distant places, again feel hungry on reaching school, and thus cannot concentrate on studies.

  • The contribution of mid-day meals to food security and child nutrition seems to be particularly crucial in tribal areas where hunger is endemic.

  • Mid Day meals have big effects on school participation, not just in terms of getting more children enrolled in the registers but also in terms of regular pupil attendance on a daily basis. Mid day meal has brought a sharp increase in school enrolment and attendance rates across all the states and more importantly narrowing the gender gaps in school attendance rates.

  • There is also evidence to suggest that mid day meals have an important social value and foster equality. Cooked Mid Day Meal is reported to have created a platform for children of all social and economic backgrounds to take meals together, thereby facilitating achieving the objective of social equity.

  • School meal program also provides parents with a strong incentive to send children to school, thereby encouraging enrolment and reducing absenteeism and dropout rates. It supports health, nutrition, and education goals and consequently will have a multi-pronged impact on a nations overall social and economic development.

  • School feeding programme serve as a very effective mechanism for strengthening the socialization process. It helps to break the caste and class barriers.

  • Mid day meal has also helped the poor families that, engulfed in poverty, hunger and starvation striving hard to have one square meal a day, can not even think of sending their children to schools. The poor households such as those headed by widows or landless labourers value that assurance of a free lunch every day for their children.

  • This programme has created a very congenial atmosphere for education, health growth and overall well-being of the poor and needy children.

  • The gender gap in school participation tends to narrow, as the Mid Day Meal Scheme helps erode the barriers that prevent girls from going to school. Mid Day Meal Scheme also provide a useful source of employment for women, and helps liberate working women from the burden of cooking at home during the day. In these and other ways, women and girl children have a special stake in Mid Day Meal Scheme.

  • National Council of Educational Research & Trainings latest report states that Learning Achievement of Students at the End of Class-V has inferred that children covered under mid day meal have higher achievement level than those who were not covered under it.

  • The Scheme has created various good habits in children, such as washing ones hands before and after eating, use of clean water , good hygiene etc.

Table 3-Achievements during the period 2005-06 to 2011-12









Children covered (in Cr.)







up to 30.09.11

Food grain allocated (in lakh MTs)








Budget allocation (in Cr.)








Total Exp (in Cr.)







up to 29.12.11

Source: Annual Report 2011-12, MHRD, Government of India.
* Primary and Upper Primary Combined

Problems of MDM Programme

Some of the problems most commonly reported in various studies related to the MDM programme in different parts of the country include:

  • Very poor infrastructure facilities (e.g. cooking shed, water supply and utensils);

  • Repetition of the same menu every day;

  • Disruption of classroom processes because teachers had to oversee the operation;

  • Poor quality and variety of food;

  • Poor hygiene (including reports of sickness after meals);

  • Inadequate payment of salaries to cooks;

  • Insufficient budgetary allocation toward conversion costs which reportedly resulted in the fixed menu;

  • Caste and religious bias among some parents in some places;

  • Limited opportunities for parental participation in the programme;

  • Lack of enough plates in some cases, resulting in children eating off leaves or paper;

  • Irregular and delayed delivery of food grains and funding in some cases;

  • The quantity and quality of food were likely to be less than the minimum stipulated by the court;

  • Low quality rice was provided by FCI, which required suppliers to exchange it for better quality rice from the market;

  • Lack of maintenance of sheds


  • Government needs to establish a system to ascertain improvement in nutritional levels of children. It should coordinate with the concerned department and ensure maintenance of health cards in all the schools to monitor the health status of the children.

  • There is a need to narrow the gap between enrolment vs. actual number of children availing MDM.

  • Monitoring and Supervision mechanisms should be implemented effectively. The State government needs to strengthen the internal controls as well as the inspection and monitoring mechanism at all levels.

  • The quality of cooked food served needs to be enhanced.

  • Transfer of funds up to school level is needed to ensure full utilization of funds.

  • The Grievance Redressal Mechanism should be widened and implemented at all levels.

  • There should be provision for training of cooks-cum-helpers on aspects of hygiene, health, sanitation, cooking and serving.

  • It is essential that the children and the parents are given nutrition education, so that MDM is not taken as a substitute for home food but as an addition to the food provided by the family.


The Scheme could be a platform for strengthening the school health programme in order to produce a real impact. Since the Supreme Court says that the onus to monitor the implementation of the scheme essentially lies with the Central government, as it is the Central government that is providing assistance, it is important that leakages from the MDMS should be stopped at all cost.

Comprehensive, periodical and systematic orientation is mandatory to sensitize all stakeholders including the policy makers, implementers, teachers, centre level officials and community people to make them understand this scheme well. This would help them to become more efficient and be active partners in the programme that will certainly enhance its performance.

Brief Intro of  Dr.Gracious James 

"The author is Assistant Professor of Commerce at Government Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and currently doing Post Doctoral Research at University of Kerala under the U.G.C- Research Award Scheme. He was awarded Ph.D. by the University of Kerala in 2009. He is having 16 years of teaching experience at various levels. He had authored two books and published more than twenty articles in national and international research journals. He has also participated in many national and international conferences and presented papers. He is Editor in Chief of Sustain, An International Journal of Social Sciences and Environment."




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