Midday Meal Scheme

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Primary school children receiving Midday Meal in Karnataka

The Mid Day Meal Scheme is a multi-faceted programme of the Government of India that, among other things, seeks to address issues of food security, lack of nutrition and access to education on a pan nation scale.[1] It involves provision for free lunch on working days for children in Primary and Upper Primary Classes in Government, Government Aided, Local Body, Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternate Innovative Education (AIE) Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Ministry of Labour. The primary objective of the scheme is to provide hot cooked meal to children of primary and upper primary classes.[2] with other objectives of improving nutritional status of children, encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities, thereby increasing the enrollment, retention and attendance rates.[3] According to the government, it is the world’s largest school feeding programme, reaching out to about 120,000,000 children in over 1,265,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) centres across the country.[4]

A World Bank report states that India has 42 percent of the world’s underweight children. According to the studies by National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB), National Institute of Nutritiong (NIN) and Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), 58.6 percent of the children of the age group 6–9 years and 77.9 percent of the children of the age group 10-13 are underweight. If the mild under nutrition is added to underweight, this number increases to 94.1 percent and 96.4 percent respectively. 30.1 percent of all children of 10-13 age group are severely underweight. The school dropout rate is as high as 60 percent.[5] Under Article 24, paragraph 2c[6] of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which India is a party,[7] India has committed to providing "adequate nutritious foods" for Children.it was basically started in 2001 and implemented in 2004 and till 2013 lot of amendments and changes is being done.


Pre-Independence initiatives[edit]

The roots of the programme can be traced back to Pre-Independence era when a Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced by British administration for disadvantaged children in Madras Municipal Corporation in 1925.[4] In 1928 Keshav Academy of Calcutta introduced compulsory Mid-Day Tiffin for school boys on payment basis at the rate of four annas per child per month.[8] Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced in the Union Territory of Puducherry by French Administration from the year 1930.[9] A school lunch program was started in parts of Kerala in 1941, followed by Bombay implementing a free mid-day meal scheme in 1942 which, with UNICEF assistance, distributed skimmed milk powder to children aged between 6–13 years. Another project was launched in Bangalore city in 1946 where the scheme provided cooked rice with curds to the children.[8] In1952 MR K.Kamaraj visited Madurai SOURASHTRA HIGH SCHOOL,he came across the NOON MEAL scheme implemented from 1930 A.D.He was impressed by the scheme and benifits.Then he implemented to start with CURD RICE, LEMON RICE cooked in the central kichen and supplied to school children.It benifitted to allivate Mal-Nutrition and rise in attendance of students.

Initiatives by State Governments[edit]

In 1953, Uttar Pradesh Government introduced a scheme, on voluntary basis, to provide meals consisting of boiled or roasted or sprouted grams, ground-nut, puffed rice, boiled potatoes or seasonal fruits. During 1962-63, Tamil Nadu became the first state in India to initiate a noon meal programme to children with the launch of Mid Day Meal Programme in primary schools. Shri K. Kamaraj, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu introduced this in Chennai and later extended it to all districts of Tamil Nadu .[10] On 1 July 1982, Nutritious Meal Programme was introduced and initially implemented in Child Welfare Centres for pre-school Children in the age group of 2 to 5 years and to the primary school children in the age group of 5 to 9 years in rural areas. The programme was subsequently extended to Nutritious Meal Centres in urban areas from 15 September 1982 and later extended to school students of the age group of 10 to 15 years from September 1984. The Children in the age group of 2 to 5 years and the students in 1st to 5th standard receive nutritious meal throughout the year (365 days) and those in standard 6th to 10th receive the meal on all school working days (220 days approximately).[11]

Gujarat was the second state to introduce MDM scheme in 1984, but it was discontinued in between. From August 1990 to October 1991 MDM was replaced by Food for Education Programme where in children with 70% attendance were provided 10 kg of food grains free of cost. Later, from 15 January 1992 MDM Scheme was re-introduced.[12]

The Mid Day Meal Scheme was introduced in the state of Kerala in 1984 in the Lower Primary Schools functioning in 222 Villages, having Fishermen as majority. During 1985 the scheme was extended to all Lower Primary schools (Std. I to IV ). The scheme was extended to Upper Primary Schools (std. V to VII) during 87-88. The scheme was further extended to the students of Std. VIII during 2007-08.[13] Mid Day Meal was also being provided to children in Tribal Areas in some States like Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. By 1990-91 the number of States implementing the mid day meal programme with their own resources on a universal or a large scale had increased to twelve, namely, Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. In another three States, namely Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal, the programme was being implemented with State resources in combination with international assistance. Another two States, namely Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan were implementing the programme entirely with international assistance.[14]

Initiatives by Central Government[edit]

International Assistance[edit]

An Expanded Nutrition Programme was launched jointly by the Government of India and the FAO, WHO, UNICEF during 1958-59,[15] which subsequently developed, into the Applied Nutrition Programme (ANP). Under this, demonstration feeding programmes for the school children wherein nutritious food was cooked by the women groups and fed to the children under the nutrition education component. International voluntary/charity organisations too had a role, to name a few - assistance in providing milk powder to Delhi and Madras Municipal Corporation by Church World Service (CWS), Co-operative of American Relief Everywhere (CARE) - providing Corn Soya Meal (CSM) Balahar, Bulgar wheat and vegetable oils, UNICEF joining hands in supplementary feeding programme in India to combat malnutrition and provided milk powder/ peanut flour (protein rich foods) as well as imparting nutrition education .[15] In 1982, 'Food for Learning' was launched with FAO commodity assistance. Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) girls were to be covered under this programme.[15] In 1983, the Department of Education of Government of In, prepared a scheme as per the guidelines of the World Food Programme (WFP). The scheme was to cover 13.6 million Scheduled Caste girls(SC) and 10.09 million Scheduled Tribe(ST) girls in classes I-V in 15 states and three union territories, where the enrolment of SC and ST girls was less than 79 percent. In monetary terms, the total annual cost of commodity assistance was $163.27 M.[16] The other cost, such as transportation, handling, cooking, etc., were to be borne by the State Governments.The proposal when circulated among states and union territories met mixed results. Many States were willing to implement the programme. However, some States expressed certain difficulties. Rajasthan felt concerned that if WFP assistance were withdrawn, the state would not be able to continue the programme on its own and Uttar Pradesh felt that it would not be practicable to have mid-day meals only for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes children.[1]

National Programme of Nutrition Support to Primary Education[edit]

The Government of India (GoI) initiated the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education(NP-NSPE) on 15 August 1995 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.[4] The objectives of the scheme are to give a boost to universalisation of primary education by mitigating classroom hunger and improving 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 the year 1997-98, the scheme was universalised across all blocks of 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,[17] and the name was changed from National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education to National Programme of Mid Day Meals(MDM) in Schools.[18]

Implementation of the scheme[edit]

During the initial stages of Implementation, it was perceived that the mode of delivery of nutritional support could be in the form of hot cooked meal, precooked food or food grains. Only four states, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pudhucherry were providing cooked meals. All other states were providing dry rations supplied by Food Corporation of India (FCI) distributed under Public Distribution System (PDS) at 3 kg of food grain per child to a family for ten months which would be equivalent to set norms for 100g /day / child for 200 school days (subject to a minimum attendance of 80 percent). States like Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir reported that they could not implement the programme due to resource constraints while the Union Territory of Chandigarh and Delhi due to logistic problems continued to serve processed foods like fruit bread, biscuits and fruits.[8]

Criticism on Dry Rations[edit]

The experience of dry rations and biscuits which were part of the NSPE has shown that these were often not consumed by children and though they did push up enrollment it had little impact on attendance and retention levels. The nutritional impact of dry rations are likely to be lower when compared to a cooked meal. While the freshly cooked meal offers a better range of nutrients, the packaged food on the other hand is costlier in terms of per rupee nutrient yield.[19] Biscuits are processed foods that are low on fibre and high on trans fatty acids, which are seen as an important long-term risk factor for a range of emerging diseases like coronary heart disease and diabetes[20] In MDM the evidence suggests that children often take the dry rations home and may or may not eat it later, and in contexts of poverty, this food often gets shared by the family.[19] More over, the dry rations lack the socialisation value which the MDM scheme provide, whose long term benefits can be seen in caste and class barriers breaking down.[21]

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)[22]- famously called as "Right to food litigation. " PUCL argued that the idle grain in FCI godowns should be used to protect people from hunger. This included providing mid day meals in primary schools. The scheme became legal right after the Supreme Court order.[23] dated 28 November 2001, directed all government and government-assisted primary schools to provide cooked midday meals making, children (or their parents) demand school meals as a matter of right, and enforce this right through Courts if necessary.

Supreme Court Commissioners[edit]

In an order dated 8 May 2002, the Supreme Court appointed Dr. N.C.Saxena and Mr S R Sankaran as commissioners of the Court to redress complaints that have not been resolved by the Collectors and the Chief Secretary.[24] Sankaran subsequently resigned, and since then Shri. Harsh Mander has been working as Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court.[25] They can take the help of NGOs and individuals to help them monitor the implementation of the court's orders.The Commissioners are empowered to enquire about any violations of the orders and to demand redressal, with the full authority of the Court. They also submit periodic reports to the Supreme Court. These reports enable the Supreme Court to keep a close watch on the status of its orders, and to issue further orders as and when necessary.[24]

Interim orders[edit]

The Supreme Court has been issuing “interim orders” on midday meals from time to time.[26] Some notable features of the orders are[24]

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[27]
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[28]
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[28]
Kitchen sheds "The Central Government shall make provisions for construction of kitchen sheds" 20 April 2004[28]
Priority to Dalit cooks "In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes" 20 April 2004[28]
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[28]
Drought Areas "In drought affected areas, midday meals shall be supplied even during summer vacations" 20 April 2004[28]


Subsequent to the Supreme Court orders, and various guidelines of MDM, the current calorific and nutrition value and food norm 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 550 700
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 case of Micro nutrients (Vitamin A and Iron-Folate) tablets and de-worming medicines, irrespective of the Primary or Upper Primary, the student's entitlement is in convergence with school health programme[29] of NRHM.


The cost of the MDMS is shared between the central and state governments.At present 75 percent of the scheme is funded by the central government whereas 25 percent of the funds are provided by the state government.[30] The central government provides free food grains to the states. The cost of cooking, infrastructure development, transportation of food grains and payment of honorarium to cooks and helpers is shared by the centre with the state governments.[31] The contribution of state governments to the scheme differs from state to state. For example Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu state governments contribute about one rupee per child per day towards cooking costs, in addition to the contribution of the Central Government.[24] As per MDM Guidelines 2006, the States/UTs shall not reduce their own budgetary allocation for MDM programme in any year below the level of BE 2005-06 .[32] While the 11th five year plan allocated INR.38,490,0000,000 for the scheme, the 12th 5 year plan has allocated INR .90,1550,000,000, indicating nearly 134 percent rise in the money allocated .[33] The public expenditure on Mid Day Meal Programme as expressed in the budgetary allocation for the scheme has gone up from Rs. 73,240,000,000 in 2007-08 to Rs. 132,150,000,000 in the year 2013-14.[34]

Urban Wage Employment Programme (UWEP)[edit]

UWEP, a component of the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana(SJSRY), seeks to provide wage employment to beneficiaries living below the poverty line within the jurisdiction of urban local bodies by utilizing their labor for construction of socially and economically useful public assets. One among the public asset which can be created under this scheme is Kitchen Sheds in Primary Schools under Mid day Meal Scheme. But the coverage of this program is limited to towns / cities with population up to 5,00,000, as per the 1991 Census .[35]

Key areas of expenditure in the MDMS during 2012 – 2013[edit]

The table outlines the key areas of expenditure incurred by the central government under the MDMS for the year 2012 – 2013[36]

Key areas of expenditure by the central government - 2012 – 2013
Area of expenditure Percentage of total cost allocated
Cooking cost 53
Cook / helper 20
Cost of food grain 14
Transportation assistance 2
Management monitoring and evaluation 2
Non recurring costs 10

Implementation Models[edit]

Decentralized model[edit]

The MDM scheme guidelines mandates that, as far as possible the cooking should be done in school kitchen by engaging cook cum helpers or self-help groups there are provisions that NGOs may be involved only in extraordinary circumstances in urban area only where cooking is not possible in the school premises. As far as rural areas are considered NGOs should not be involved .[2] In the decentralized model the meals are cooked for an exact number of children in the school, by a cook, helper, and organizer, right on the school premises and the fresh meal is served to the children. Agencies charged with the production of food usually include self help groups (SHG), Village Education Committees and Mother/Parent Teacher Associations. The advantages include catering to local tastes, increasing consumption and minimizing wastage, community participation, transparency, serving as a source of employment for women or lower caste individuals, suppliers and the beneficiaries coming in direct contact. The drawbacks of the model includes infrequent monitoring, corruption, and hygiene issues.[37] In 2004, there was an incident of a spark from the burning firewood from the cooking area lighting the thatched roof of a classroom, leading to death of 87 children,[38] while in 2011, there was an incident where children died after succumbing to the burn injuries from accidentally falling into the cooking vessel.[39]

Centralised Model[edit]

In the centralized model, mostly through a public-private partnership, an external organization cooks and delivers the meal to schools. The advantages of centralized kitchen include ensuring the provision of hygienic and nutritious food as well as allowing for the optimum utilization of infrastructural facilities. Various NGO's like, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Ekta Shakti Foundation, Iskcon Food Relief Foundation, Naandi Foundation and Jay Gee Humanitarian Society are providing mid-day meals.[30]


While the scheme mandates to provide for a hot cooked meal to ensure an energy content of 450 calories and 12 grams of proteins for children studying in primary classes and 700 calories of energy and 20 grams of proteins at the upper primary level,[40] the Ministry of Human Resource Development has confirmed that 95 per cent of meal samples prepared by NGOs in Delhi did not meet nutritional standards in 2010-12 .[41]Vedanta in Odisha has tied up with the Naandi Foundation to provide mid-day meals to children in Lanjigarh,[42] an area where Vedanta has been accused of plundering mineral resources and locked in a conflict with local tribal organisations.[43] There have been several instances of conflict of interests when NGO's are part of or get assistance from private players. To cite few example - Ekta Shakti Foundation is a society setup by AFP Private Limited (a fast-food company),[44] Jay Gee is the arm of Jay Gee Hospitality, a firm which specialises in catering,[45] Iskcon has tied up with the real estate giant EMMAR to build centralised kitchens.[30]

Monitoring and Evaluation[edit]

Monitoring Mechanism[edit]

Committees to monitor the MDM Programme[31]
Level Committee Frequency of Meeting
National 1.The National level Steering cum Monitoring Committee
2. Program Approval Board (PAB)
State The State level Steering cum 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


Government of India Review Missions on Mid Day Meal Scheme comprising members from Central Government, State Government, UNICEF and office of Supreme Court Commissioner was constituted to review the mission and also provide suggestions for improvement .[46] In addition independent monitoring institutes such as state universities and research institutions have been engaged with defined terms of reference to monitor and supervise the Scheme on a biannual basis.[47]

Critical issues in the implementation[edit]

Critical issues in the Implementation of MDM[48]
Issue States where these problems have been reported
Irregularity in serving meals Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh
Irregularity in supply of food grains to schools Odisha, Maharashtra, Tripura, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh
Caste based discrimination in serving of food Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh
Poor quality of food Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chhattisgarh
Poor coverage under School Health Programme Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
Poor infrastructure (kitchen sheds in particular) Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha
Poor hygiene Delhi, Rajasthan, Puducherry
Poor community participation Most states – Delhi, Jharkhand, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh in particular

Caste based discrimination in serving of food[edit]

While the government refutes the claim on caste based discrimination in serving of food, by citing that central teams deputed by it did not come across any discrimination except in one school in Boudh district in Odisha,[49] there have been counter-claims of survey in select states exposing the patterns of exclusion and caste discrimination in Mid Day Meals scheme.[50]

Scams and the issue of accountability[edit]

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

In January 2006, the Delhi Police unearthed a scam in the Midday Meal Scheme.[51] In December 2005, the police had seized eight truckloads (2,760 sacks) of rice meant for primary schoolchildren being carried from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns in Bulandshahr District of UP to North Delhi. When the police detained the trucks, the drivers claimed that the rice was being brought all the way to Delhi to be cleaned at a factory. However, according to the guidelines, the rice has to be taken directly from FCI godown to the school or village concerned. Later it was found that the rice was being siphoned off by a UP-based NGO, in connivance with the government officials.[citation needed] In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate (around 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 got midday meal for the past 18 months.[52]

In December 2006, The Times of India reported a scam involving government schools that siphon off foodgrains under the midday meal scheme by faking attendance.[53] The modus operandi of the schools was simple — the attendance register would exaggerate the number of students enrolled in the class. The additional students would not exist—they were "enrolled" to get additional foodgrains which were pocketed by the school staff. The scam was exposed, when an assistant teacher at a government model primary school acted as a whistleblower. She informed the Lok Ayukta, who conducted a probe and indicted four persons for misappropriation. The whistleblower was harassed by the school staff and transferred, where she again found the same modus operandi being used to siphon off the foodgrains. She again complained to the Lok Ayukta, who issued notice to the school.

Serious concerns were raised after the death of 23 children in Bihar on 16 July 2013 after eating pesticide contaminated mid day meal served in Dharma Sati village in Saran District on . The scheme which costs the national exchequer a huge amount of money every year (the budgetary provisions for the year 2013-14 was around Rs 132,150,000,000 for the country) is marred with corrupt practices and mismanagement while risking the lives of children.[34] On 31 July 2013, around 55 students of a government middle school complained of uneasiness after consuming the midday meal provided by an NGO at Kalyuga village in Jamui district and in Arwal district, 95 students of the Chamandi primary school were taken ill after the meal.[54] While the Bihar MDM tragedy has again highlighted the issue of accountability of officials responsible for the mismanagement of the scheme, in many parts of the country, the MDM scheme still remains a major attraction of children from poorer sections of the country as a reward for attending schools.


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. This is due to simple reasons such as not using iodized salt.[55] “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, adding that the country’s poor performance is driven by its high levels of child under-nutrition and poor calorie count. “Its rates of child malnutrition is higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, ” it noted.[56] A report released as part of the 2009 Global Hunger Index ranks India at 65 out of 84 countries. The 2008 report says that India has more people suffering hunger – a figure above 200 million – than any other country in the world, it says. The report also says "improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in most Indian states".[57]

See also[edit]


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