Pradeep Pattanayak

The skyrocketing price of essential commodities starting from cooking gas to vegetables has adversely affected the quality of food served to students at schools under mid-day Meal (MDM) scheme. 

Till a few days ago, students used to get plateful of wholesome food comprising rice, dal, veg curry in their meals at schools. But the situation has changed altogether. 

With the prices of essential commodities having gone up unexpectedly and the government not increasing the sanction proportionately, students have to make do with low quality food. 

“Since the prices of everything has increased, we are left with no option but to compromise on the quality of the food being served,” alleged member of School Managing Committee, Brahmana Basta School, Athgarh, Bishnu Charan Mallik.  

The government schools are getting Rs 5.42 for each student of classes from Class I to V. And, for the students of Class Vl to VIII, the same is Rs 8.10. 

On the other hand, to serve a student with rice, dalma or egg curry or soya chunk curry, it costs around Rs 15. As of now, the schools are facing a great difficulties to prepare mid-day meals with the paltry sum. 

Students are also now turning their faces from the food currently being served to them. “The food we are receiving is not like the previous one. We request the government to give us healthy food or else stop giving it,” said Anubhav Sahu, a student.
“We are getting Rs 5.42 each for primary school students and Rs 8.10 each for Upper Primary students. Had the government’s assistance been a little bit more, we could have incaresed the quality of the food being served,” rued headmistress of Kumbharasahi Upper Primary School, Jeypore, Kuntala Patra. 

The organisations purveying mid-day meal have also expressed their helplessness. “We have also borne the brunt of the price hike of essential commodities. The fare of vehicles that carry food to the schools have increased. And with the prices of essential commodities increasing, the quality of food has also been affected,” said DGM of Akshay Patra Foundation, Arabinda Lenka. 

According to information available, 45 lakh students of 51,146 schools in the State are being provided with mid day meals. After being discontinued for some time due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, it was resumed again on April 2 and still going on.
With the reintroduction, the attendance has increased but the quality of the food has substantially decreased. 
For the mid-day meals, the Centre and State’s share is 60:40. The rice is supplied by the State. And the State is giving 45 paisa and 65 paisa more for primary and upper primary schools respectively. 

When contacted, State Nodal Officer, Mid Day Meal, Sanat Mohanty said, “The serving of food under Mid Day Meal has not stopped anywhere. But we are receiving  complaints regarding the quality of the food being served. We have urged the Central government to increase its share.”