Cost norms for lunchtime meals, Anganwadis not revised despite food inflation – Advice Eating

As a result, schools and anganwadis find it difficult to meet the nutritional needs of children and mothers

Children having lunch at a school in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra.  Photo: Ruhani Kaur/CSE
Children having lunch at a school in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. Photo: Ruhani Kaur/CSE

Schools and Anganwadi Centers (AWC) find it difficult to effectively run programs that address the nutritional needs of children and mothers. That’s because the government hasn’t revised cost norms for lunch meals despite inflation, teachers and activists said.

Teachers say the cooking costs of programs like PM-Poshan (Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman), the center’s flagship midday meal service, urgently need to be reassessed.

The most recent revision was in May 2020 when it went from Rs 4.48 to Rs 4.97 per student per school day for Elementary (Grades 1-5) and from Rs 6.71 to Rs 7.45 for Sixth (Grades 6th – 6th). -8) has been increased.

“One egg alone costs 6 rupees. It has become very difficult for schools to cover the cost of lunch meals,” said Priyanka Roy, a food rights activist from West Bengal, one of the few states that offers eggs in the lunchtime meal. called.

The West Bengal government had revised the menu in light of the increased cost of groceries. She had asked schools to only give an egg one day a week, down from twice a week before.

Ideally, the central government should revise cooking costs annually to offset the impact of inflation on food.

Under PM-Poshan, the nutritional norm per child per day is 450 calories and 12 grams of protein for elementary school students and 700 calories and 20 grams of protein for high school students.

A teacher from Calcutta told Stayed on the ground that contrary to the nutritional norm of 20 grams of protein, only 10 grams are provided.

“It’s not like we’ve been able to hit the 20 gram norm before. But the situation has worsened. Currently we can put legumes or soybeans and mainly potatoes in vegetables most days,” said Dipak Roy, a teacher who manages lunchtime meals at an elementary school in Kolkata.

About 12 teachers at the school have set up a fund and contributed Rs 200-300 over the past two months to help meet the rising cost of lunchtime meals. A principal at a school in Cooch Behar said rising cooking gas costs were also hampering the scheme.

“We have to use about two bottles in a month. Schools have just closed for the May 2 summer vacation and unless the government revises cost norms by June, it will be difficult to run the program as it is,” A Hussain said.

Another Gujarat teacher, who asked not to be named, said the ideal cooking cost per child should be Rs 10 to meet all dietary standards.

“Current inflation has not been taken into account so far. Usually this review of costs is done at the beginning of the year. So I doubt it will happen now. Inflation indexing should be more regular when calorie and protein norms need to be met,” said Dipa Sinha, an assistant professor at Delhi’s Ambedkar University, who is also associated with the Right to Food campaign.

Similarly, the cost norms for supplementary nutrition in Anganwadis were also last revised in October 2017: from Rs 6 to Rs 8 for children 6-72 months, from Rs 9 to Rs 12 for severely malnourished children and from Rs 7 to Rs 9, 50 for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Tarulata, a Gujarat food rights activist, said cooked meals have not yet started in most Anganwadis after being halted during the first COVID-related lockdown in 2020.

“Few anganwadis provide hot cooked meals and even these cannot meet the required quantity or quality. The rest are still unable to provide cooked meals and only provide dry rations or packaged food,” she said.

In the state capital, Delhi, hot meals started just two days ago, on May 2nd, after a break of two years.

Earlier, the government cut the budget for PM-Poshan from Rs 11,500 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 10,233.75 crore in 2022-23.

Raj Shekhar, national coordinator of the Right to Food campaign, said the reduced allocation combined with the current food inflation will pose a major challenge for India in the fight against malnutrition.

“The nutritional aspect has been reduced to wheat and rice,” he said.

A Right to Food Campaign survey released in February 2022, which included 6,697 respondents in 14 states, found that 41 percent of households had reported that the nutritional quality of their diet had deteriorated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

About 64 percent said their legume consumption had decreased, while 73 percent said their green vegetable consumption had decreased.

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