Midday Meal Scheme

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Primary school children receiving Midday Meal in Karnataka

The Mid Day Meal Scheme is a programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nation wide.[1] The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in Primary and Upper Primary Classes in Government, Government Aided, Local Body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and Alternate Innovative Education Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of Labour.[2] Serving 120,000,000 children in over 1,265,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres, it is the largest such programme in the world.[3]

Under Article 24, paragraph 2c[4] of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party,[5] India has committed to providing "adequate nutritious foods" for children. The programme entered the planning stages in 2001 and was implemented in 2004. The programme has undergone many changes and amendments since its launch.


Pre-Independence initiatives[edit]

The roots of the programme can be traced back to the Pre-Independence era, when a Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced in 1925 in Madras Corporation by the British administration.[3] A Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced in the Union Territory of Puducherry by the French administration in 1930.[6]

=== Initiatives by State governmenttee to children, with their launch of a Mid Day Meal Programme in primary schools in the 1962–63 school year. Thiru K. Kamaraj, then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, introduced it first in Chennai and later extended it to all districts of Tamil Nadu.[7]

Gujarat was the second state to introduce MDM scheme in 1984, but it was later discontinued.[8]

A Mid Day Meal Scheme was introduced in Kerala in 1984, and was gradually expanded to include more schools and grades.[9] By 1990–91, twelve states were funding the scheme to all or most of the students in their area: Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. Karnataka, Orissa, and West Bengal received international aid to help with implementation of the programme, and in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan the programme was funded entirely using foreign aid.[10]

Initiatives by the Central government[edit]

International assistance[edit]

International voluntary/charity organisations have assisted. Church World Service has provided milk powder to Delhi and Madras Municipal Corporation; CARE has provided corn soya meal, Bulgar wheat, and vegetable oils; and UNICEF has provided high proteins foods and educational support.[11] In 1982, 'Food for Learning' was launched with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initially the programme was aimed at Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe girls.[11] In 1983, the federal Department of Education prepared a scheme under the auspices of the World Food Programme to supply meals to 13.6 million Scheduled Caste girls and 10.09 million Scheduled Tribe girls in classes I-V in 15 states and three union territories. The value of the food itself was $163.27 million per year.[11] Labour, facilities, and transportation costs were to be paid by the State governments. The reaction among the states and union territories was mixed. Many states were interested, but some were concerned about their ability to afford it if the FAO support were to be withdrawn.[1]

National Programme of Nutrition Support to Primary Education[edit]

The Government of India initiated the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) on 15 August 1995.[3] The objective of the scheme is to help improve the effectiveness of primary education by improving the nutritional status of primary school children. Initially, the scheme was implemented in 2,408 blocks of the country to provide food to students in classes I-V of government, government-aided and local body run schools. By 1997–98, the scheme had been implemented across the country. Under this programme, a cooked mid-day meal with 300 calories and 12 gram of proteins is provided to all children enrolled in classes I to V. In October 2007, the scheme included students in upper primary classes of VI to VIII in 3,479 educationally backward blocks,[12] and the name was changed from National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education to National Programme of Mid Day Meals (MDM) in Schools.[13]

Supreme court order[edit]

Article 21 – " Right to life" of Indian Constitution when read together with Articles 39(a) and 47, makes the Right to Food a derived Fundamental Right which is enforceable by virtue of the constitutional remedy provided under Article 32 of the Constitution. In April 2001, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) initiated the public interest litigation (Civil) No. 196/2001, People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Others (PUCL)[14] – famously called as "Right to food litigation". PUCL argued that the excess food supplies in Food Corporation of India godowns should be fed to hungry citizens. This included providing mid day meals in primary schools. The scheme came into force with the Supreme Court order dated 28 November 2001,[15] which requires all government and government-assisted primary schools to provide cooked midday meals.[16]

Supreme court commissioners[edit]

Dr. N. C. Saxena and S. R. Sankaran were appointed on 8 May 2002 as commissioners of the Court to redress complaints that cannot be resolved by the Collectors and the Chief Secretary.[16] Shri. Harsh Mander has since replaced Sankaran, taking the title Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court.[17]

Interim orders[edit]

The Supreme Court occasionally issues interim orders regarding midday meals.[18] Some examples are:[16]

Order regarding Exact Text Order Dated
Basic entitlement "Every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared mid day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8–12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days" 28 November 2001[19]
Charges on Conversion cost "The conversion costs for a cooked meal, under no circumstances, shall be recovered from the children or their parents" 20 April 2004[20]
Central assistance "The Central Government... shall also allocate funds to meet with the conversion costs of food-grains into cooked midday meals" 20 April 2004[20]
Kitchen sheds "The Central Government shall make provisions for construction of kitchen sheds" 20 April 2004[20]
Priority to Dalit cooks "In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes" 20 April 2004[20]
Quality safeguards "Attempts shall be made for better infrastructure, improved facilities (safe drinking water etc.), closer monitoring (regular inspection etc.) and other quality safeguards as also the improvement of the contents of the meal so as to provide nutritious meal to the children of the primary schools" 20 April 2004[20]
Drought Areas "In drought affected areas, midday meals shall be supplied even during summer vacations" 20 April 2004[20]


The nutritional guidelines for minimum amount of food and calorie content per child per day are:[2]

Entitlement norm per child per day under MDM
Item Primary (Class I to V) Upper Primary(Class VI to VIII)
Calories 450 700
Protein (in Grams ) 12 20
Rice / Wheat (in Grams ) 100 150
Dal (in Grams ) 20 30
Vegetables (in Grams ) 50 75
Oil and Fat (in Grams ) 5 7.5

In the case of micronutrients (vitamin A, iron, and folate) tablets and de-worming medicines, the student is entitled to receive the amount provided for in the school health programme of the National Rural Health Mission.[21]


The central and state governments share the cost of the Midday Meal Scheme, with the centre providing 75 percent and the states 25 percent.[22] The central government provides grains and financing for other food. Costs for facilities, transportation, and labour is shared by the federal and state governments.[23] The participating states contribute different amounts of money.[16] While the eleventh five-year plan allocated INR.38,490,0000,000 for the scheme, the twelfth five-year plan has allocated INR .90,1550,000,000, a 134 percent rise.[24] The public expenditure for the Mid Day Meal Programme has gone up from Rs. 73,240,000,000 in 2007–08 to Rs. 132,150,000,000 in 2013–14.[25] The per day cooking cost per child at the primary level has been fixed to INR3.59 while at the upper primary level to INR5.38.[26]

Implementation models[edit]

Decentralized model[edit]

In the decentralized model, meals are cooked on-site by local self-help groups, parent-teacher associations, or village committees. This system has the advantage of being able to serve local cuisine, providing jobs in the area, and minimising waste. Disadvantages include lax monitoring, poor hygiene, and corruption.[27] In 2004, 87 children died when the thatched roof of a classroom was ignited by sparks from a cooking fire,[28] while in 2011, a child died after succumbing to burn injuries she sustained after accidentally falling into a cooking vessel.[29]

Centralised model[edit]

In the centralized model, an external organization cooks and delivers the meal to schools, mostly through public-private partnerships. Advantages of the centralized kitchen include ensuring hygienic and nutritious food and making optimum use of cooking facilities. Various NGOs such as the Akshaya Patra Foundation, Ekta Shakti Foundation, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, Naandi Foundation, and Jay Gee Humanitarian Society provide mid-day meals.[22]


The Ministry of Human Resource Development confirmed that 95% of tested meal samples prepared by NGOs in Delhi did not meet nutritional standards in 2010–12. In response, the Ministry withheld 50% of the payment for the deficient meals.[30]

Monitoring and evaluation[edit]

Monitoring mechanism[edit]

Committees to monitor the MDM Programme[23]
Level Committee Frequency of Meeting
National 1.The National level Steering / Monitoring Committee
2. Program Approval Board (PAB)
State The State level Steering / Monitoring Committee Quarterly
District The District level Committee Monthly
Municipal The Municipal Committee Monthly
Block The Mandal Level Committee Fortnightly
Village Panchayat level Sub Committee Day-to-day functioning of the implementing of the scheme
School School Management and Development Committee
or Parent Teacher Association.
Monthly and as when it is


The Government of India Review Missions on Mid Day Meal Scheme, comprising members from Central Government, State governments, UNICEF, and the office of Supreme Court Commissioner was created in 2010 to review the programme and offer suggestions for improvement.[31] The scheme is independently monitored twice a year.[32]

Caste based discrimination in serving of food[edit]

While the government refutes the claim that caste based discrimination is occurring in the serving of food,[33] Sukhdeo Thorat and Joel Lee found in their 2005 study that caste discrimination was occurring in conjunction with the Mid Day Meals programme.[34]

Scams and the issue of accountability[edit]

Various scams involving Midday Meal Scheme have been unearthed since it was started.

In December 2005, Delhi police seized eight trucks laden with 2,760 sacks of rice meant for primary school children. The rice was being transported i from Food Corporation of India godowns Bulandshahr district to North Delhi. When police stopped the trucks, the drivers claimed the rice was being taken to Delhi to be cleaned. Investigators later discovered that the rice was being stolen by an NGO, and charges were laid.[35]

In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village (30 km from Darjeeling) accused a group of teachers of embezzling midday meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school had not received their midday meal for the past year and a half.[36]

In December 2006, The Times of India reported that school staff were falsifying attendance and enrollment figures in order to obtain food grains. Four people were charged in the scam.[37]

Twenty-three children died in Dharma Sati village in Saran District on 16 July 2013 after eating pesticide-contaminated mid day meals.[25] On 31 July 2013, 55 students at a government middle school fell ill at Kalyuga village in Jamui district after their midday meal provided by an NGO. On the same day, 95 students at Chamandi primary school in Arwal district were ill after their meal.[38]


Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India. According to current statistics, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight. Some simple health measures such as using iodized salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.[39] "India is home to the world's largest food insecure population, with more than 500 million people who are hungry", India State Hunger Index (ISHI) said. Many children don't get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole. "Its rates of child malnutrition is higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa," it noted.[40] The 2009 Global Hunger Index ranked India at 65 out of 84 countries. More than 200 million went hungry in India that year, more than any other country in the world. The report states that "improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in most Indian states".[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chettiparambil-Rajan, Angelique (July 2007). "India: A Desk Review of the Mid-Day Meals Programme" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions on Mid Day Meal Scheme". Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "About the Mid Day Meal Scheme". Mdm.nic.in. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Convention on the Rights of the Child". United Nations. 20 November 1989. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "India and United Nations – Human Rights". Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in Schools Annual Work Plan and Budget 2011–12" (PDF). Union Territory of Puducherry. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "Mid-Day Meal Programme". National Institute of Health & Family Welfare. 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Annual Work Plan & Budget 2010–11, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Gujarat State" (PDF). Government of Gujarat. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Appraisal Note: State: Kerala" (PDF). Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Mid Day Meal" (PDF). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c "Historical Background". Nutrition Support to Education: Report of the Committee on Mid-Day Meals. Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of India. May 1995. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Mid-Day Meal for the Poor, Privatised Education for the Non-Poor". Economic and Political Weekly 48 (30): 155. 27 July 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  13. ^ "Agenda note of 5th meeting of National Steering and Moitoring Committee meeting". 
  14. ^ Dr. N.C. Saxena. "Sixth Report Of the Commissioners". 
  15. ^ "Right to Food Campaign: Mid Day Meals". Righttofoodindia.org. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Mid Day Meals: A Primer" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Commissioners to the Supreme Court". Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Legal Action: Supreme Court Orders". Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "SUPREME COURT ORDER OF NOVEMBER 28, 2001". Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f "ORDER OF APR 20, 2004". 
  21. ^ "Guidelines of the School Health Programme" (PDF). Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Prasad, Archana (28 July 2013). "Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Nutrition and Corporate Capital". People's Democracy (Communist Party of India (Marxist)). XXXVII (30). Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Joyita Ghose (23 July 2013). "the PRS Blog " The Mid Day Meal Scheme". Prsindia.org. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  24. ^ "123% jump in money allocated for UPA flagship schemes". Business Standard. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  25. ^ a b "Chargesheet filed in Bihar midday meal tragedy". The Hindu. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  26. ^ "MHRD increases Cooking cost under mid-day meal scheme". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "Interrogating 'best practices' for the Implementation of School Nutrition Programmes in Urban India" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "87 children die in school fire". 17 July 2004. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  29. ^ "'Gravy' mistake: 8-yr-old girl falls in hot sambar, dies". DNA India. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  30. ^ "Capital's MCD schools mid-day meal scheme fails nutrition test!". Zeenews. india.com. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  31. ^ "Mid Day Meal Scheme , First Review Mission" (PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  32. ^ "Monitoring of Mid-Day-Meal Scheme" (Press release). Press Information Bureau , Government of India. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  33. ^ "Caste and Gender Based Discrimination Under MDMS" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013. "The teams did not come across any discrimination except in one school in district Boudh in Odisha." 
  34. ^ Lee, Joel; Thorat, Sukhdeo (24 September 2005). "Caste Discrimination and Food Security Programmes". Economic and Political Weekly 40 (39). JSTOR 4417187. 
  35. ^ "Lid off massive scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme: 2,760 sacks of rice seized". The Tribune, Delhi. 20 January 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006. 
  36. ^ "Scam shadow on meal scheme". The Telegraph, Kolkata. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006. 
  37. ^ "Teacher blows whistle on scam: School Authorities Pocket Money In The Name Of Mid-Day Meal Scheme". The Times of India, Bangalore. 2 December 2006. 
  38. ^ "Students fall ill after midday meal in Bihar". The Hindu. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  39. ^ Sengupta, Somini. (12 March 2009) Malnutrition of children in India continues. Nytimes.com. Retrieved on 18 February 2012.
  40. ^ "Madhya Pradesh tops India State Hunger list of 17". LiveMint. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  41. ^ Hunger in India alarming. BBC News (14 October 2008). Retrieved on 18 February 2012.