What’s in the news?
- The Union Cabinet approved a proposal to rename the 26-year old national mid-day meal scheme as the PM POSHAN (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme. From the next financial year, the scheme will also cover the 24 lakh children studying in balvatikas, the pre-primary section of government schools.
- The government had opened ‘Balvatikas’ pre-schools attached to ‘anganwadis’. They offer one year of pre-school classes.
- The mid-day meal plan at present provides hot cooked food to students from Class 1 to 8 in all 11.20 lakh government and government-aided schools, to all nearly 11.80 crore children.
Holistic nutrition goals
- The PM POSHAN scheme has been approved for the next five-year period until 2025-26, with a collective outlay of ₹1.31 lakh crore, including ₹31,733 crore as the share to be borne by the State governments.
- It will improve nutritional status, encourage education and learning and increase enrolments in government schools.
- The rebranded scheme aims to focus on “holistic nutrition” goals. A 5% flexi component would be built into the existing budget to allow States to incorporate additional nutrition-rich elements — such as fortified foods, fruits and milk — into the menu.
- Use of locally grown traditional foods will be encouraged, along with school nutrition gardens.
- Social audits have been made mandatory in all districts and college students and trainee teachers will be roped in to do field inspections to ensure the quality of meals.
- In other procedural changes meant to promote transparency and reduce leakages, States will be asked to do direct benefit cash transfers of cooking costs to individual school accounts, and honorarium amounts to the bank accounts of cooks and helpers.
A Key Recommendation
- The extension of mid-day meals to pre-primary students, who are to be incorporated into the formal education system, was a key recommendation of the National Education Policy 2020 and the population of balvatikas is expected to rise from the existing 24 lakh as the policy is implemented.
- However, there has been no progress on the NEP’s other recommendation to start offering breakfasts to school students as well.