Free Press Journal

PACKAGED FOOD AS MIDDAY MEAL REJECTED

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A Panel had suggested to serve packaged nutritious food as the quality of cooked food served in schools under the scheme was very poor

NEW DELHI : The UPA government has rejected a Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recommendation to provide packaged food instead of cooked food under the midday meal scheme for school children.

The committee had suggested a pilot study on providing packaged nutritious food that did not need to be cooked as it felt the quality of cooked food served under the scheme was very poor. In its report in April, the committee had highlighted the poor safety standards of the cooked meals served in schools and the unhygienic way the foodstuff were stored – issues that have gained urgency after last month’s tragedy in Bihar. The report asked the ministry to get the Food and Nutrition Board to train the teachers and cook-cum-helpers.
The human resources development ministry rejected the recommendation citing a 2001 ruling of the Supreme Court that said only cooked meal would be provided under the scheme. The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of cooked meal. There is no move to seek a review of this order,” an official said.
National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena said an experiment with packaged food under the Integrated Child Development Scheme in certain states had proved a disaster.
He cited the case of Uttar Pradesh where the state government had allowed the packaged food distributed in place of the cooked food, noting that the National Human Rights Commission found that 40 per cent of the packaged food was served to cattle and the rest was sold in the market as children did not prefer the packaged food.
Meanwhile, learning from death of the school children in Bihar, the ministry has approached the Tourism Ministry to train the cooks engaged for preparing the midday meals in the hotel management institute and the food craft institute.
A 10-day course has been prepared for the purpose. Each institute will impart training to the senior cooks in batches of 30 each and they in turn act as master trainers to train other cooks in the district.
In a statement in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Minister of State for Human Resources Development Shashi Tharoor said six type of trainings will be provided to the midday meal cooks in the
institutes.
They will be educated on the nutritious values and calories to take care of them while cooking for children. They will be also trained on issues like malnutrition and the safe upkeep of the food items.