Midday Meal Scheme

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Midday Meal Scheme
Mid-day meal scheme logo.jpg
The Children being served the food under the Mid-day Meal Scheme at a primary school, Wokha district in Nagaland.jpg
Students receiving mid-day meal at a school in Wokha district of Nagaland state
Type of projectGovernment of India

The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme in India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.[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 of its kind 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 yielding "adequate nutritious food" for children. The programme has undergone many changes since its launch in 1995. The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013. The legal backing to the Indian school meal programme is akin to the legal backing provided in the US through the National School Lunch Act.


One of the steps taken by the government includes the Midday meal scheme. This refers to the programme introduced in all government elementary schools to provide children with cooked lunch.

Tamil Nadu was the first state state in India to introduce this scheme, and in 2001 , the Supreme Court asked all state governments to begin this programme in their schools within 6 months. The programme has shown many positive effects.

Their mothers who first used to interrupt their work to feed their children at home, now no longer need to do so.

The roots of the programme can be traced back to the pre-independence era, when a midday meal programme was introduced in 1925 in Tamil Nadu

Initiatives by state governments to children began with their launch of a midday meal programme in primary schools in the 1962–63 school year. Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in introducing midday meal programmes in India to increase the number of children coming to school; K. Kamaraj, then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, introduced it first in Chennai and later extended it to all districts of Tamil Nadu.[6]

During 1982, 1 July onwards, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. G. Ramachandran upgraded the existing midday meal scheme in the state to 'Nutritious food scheme' keeping in the mind that 68 lakh children suffer malnutrition.[7]

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

A midday 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]

In Karnataka, Children's LoveCastles Trust started to provide midday meals in 1997. A total of eight schools were adopted and a food bank programme and an Angganwasi milk Programme were started. The food-bank programme was replaced by the State Government midday meal scheme.[11]

Initiatives by the central government[edit]

President Pranab Mukherjee launching mid-day meal scheme at a Central Government-run school

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 one through five 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 midday meal with 300 calories and 12 grams of protein is provided to all children enrolled in classes one to five. In October 2007, the scheme included students in upper primary classes of six to eight 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 in Schools.[13] Though cooked food was to be provided, most states (apart from those already providing cooked food) chose to provide "dry rations" to students. "Dry rations" refers to the provision of uncooked 3 kg of wheat or rice to children with 80% attendance.

Supreme court order[edit]

In April 2001, the 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[14] – popularly known as the "right to food" case. The PUCL argued that article 21 – "right to life" of the 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. The PUCL argued that excess food stocks with the Food Corporation of India should be fed to hungry citizens. This included providing midday 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]

Interim orders[edit]

The supreme court occasionally issues interim orders regarding midday meals.[17] Some examples are:[16]

Order regarding Exact text Order dated
Basic entitlement "Every child in every place and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared midday 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[18]
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[19]
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[19]
Kitchen sheds "The Central Government shall make provisions for construction of kitchen sheds" 20 April 2004[19]
Priority to Dalit cooks "In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes" 20 April 2004[19]
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[19]
Drought areas "In drought affected areas, midday meals shall be supplied even during summer vacations" 20 April 2004[19]


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

Entitlement norm per child per day under MDM
Item Primary (class one to five) Upper primary (class six to eight)
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.[20]


The central and state governments share the cost of the Midday Meal Scheme, with the centre providing 60 percent and the states 40 percent.[21] The central government provides grains and financing for other food. Costs for facilities, transportation, and labour is shared by the federal and state governments.[22] The participating states contribute different amounts of money.[16] While the eleventh five-year plan allocated 384.9 billion (US$5.4 billion) for the schemmnk' e, the twelfth five-year plan has allocated 901.55 billion (US$13 billion), a 134 percent rise.[23] The public expenditure for the Mid Day Meal Programme has gone up from 73.24 billion (US$1.0 billion) in 2007–08 to 132.15 billion (US$1.9 billion) in 2013–14.[24] The per day cooking cost per child at the primary level has been fixed to 4.13 (5.8¢ US) while at the upper primary level is 6.18 (8.7¢ US).[25]

Implementation models[edit]

Decentralised model[edit]

This is the most widespread practice. In the decentralised model, meals are cooked on-site by local cooks and helpers or self-help groups. This system has the advantage of being able to serve local cuisine, providing jobs in the area, and minimising waste. It also allows for better monitoring (e.g., by parents and teachers).

In the absence of adequate infrastructure (such as kitchen sheds, utensils etc.), it can lead to accidents and maintaining hygiene can be difficult.[26] In 2004, 87 children died when the thatched roof of a classroom was ignited by sparks from a cooking fire,.[27] In 2011, a child died after succumbing to burn injuries she sustained after accidentally falling into a cooking vessel.[28]

Centralised model[edit]

In the centralised model, an external organisation cooks and delivers the meal to schools, mostly through public-private partnerships. Centralised kitchens are seen more in urban areas, where density of schools is high so that transporting food is a financially viable option. Advantages of centralised kitchens include ensuring better hygienic as large scale cooking is done through largely automated processes. Various NGOs such as the Nalabothu Foundation, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Ekta Shakti Foundation, Naandi Foundation, and Jay Gee Humanitarian Society provide midday meals.[21]

A study of centralised kitchens in Delhi in 2007 found that even with centralised kitchens, the quality of food needed to be improved.[29] The study also found that when the food arrives and is of inadequate quality, even teachers feel helpless and do not know whom to complain to.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development reported 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]

International assistance[edit]

International voluntary and 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.[31] 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.[31] 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 one to five in 15 states and three union territories. The value of the food itself was $163.27 million per year.[31] 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]

Tithi Bhojan[edit]

Tithi Bhojan is a concept designed to ensure greater public participation under the Midday Meal Programme being followed in Gujarat. In order to bring in greater community participation, local communities are encouraged to celebrate important family events viz., birth of a child, success in exam, inauguration of new house, etc. by contributing to the midday meal served in the local schools. It is voluntarily served by the community/family among school children in several forms such as sweets and savoury snacks, along with regular MDM, full meals, supplementary nutritive items like sprouted beans, and contributions in kind such as cookware, utensils, dinner sets or glasses for drinking water. The concept has been adopted by different states with local nomenclatures like "Sampriti Bhojan" in Assam, "Dham" in Himachal Pradesh, "Sneh Bhojan" in Maharashtra, "Shalegagi Naavu Neevu" in Karnataka, "Anna Dhanam" in Puducherry, "Priti Bhoj" in Punjab and "Utsav Bhoj" in Rajasthan.

Monitoring and evaluation[edit]

Monitoring mechanism[edit]

Committees to monitor the MDM Programme[22]
Level Committee Frequency of meeting
National The national level steering / monitoring committee
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 implementation 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 the central government, state governments, UNICEF, and the office of the supreme court commissioner was created in 2010 to review the programme and offer suggestions for improvement.[32] The scheme is independently monitored twice a year.[33]

Evaluation of the scheme[edit]

The MDM Scheme has many potential benefits: attracting children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school, improving regularity, nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are some that have been highlighted.[34]

Studies by economists show that some of these benefits have indeed been realised. The positive effect on enrollment of disadvantaged children (Dreze and Kingdon), on attendance (by Chakraborty, Jayaraman, Pande),[35] on learning effort (by Booruah, Afridi and Somanathan), on improving nutritional inputs (Afridi), and on improving nutritional outcomes (by Singh, Dercon and Parker).

Caste based discrimination continues to occur in the serving of food, though the government seems unwilling to acknowledge this.[36][failed verification] Sukhdeo Thorat and Joel Lee found in their 2005 study that caste discrimination was occurring in conjunction with the Mid Day Meals programme.[37]

Media reports also document the positive effect of the programme for women, especially working women[38] and its popularity among parents, children and teachers alike. Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc. A few such incidents are listed below:

- 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 from Food Corporation of India godowns Bulandshahr district to North Delhi. The police stopped the trucks and investigators later discovered that the rice was being stolen by an NGO.[39]

- 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.[40]

- In December 2006, The Times of India reported that school staff were inflating attendance in order to obtain food grains.[41]

- Twenty-three children died in Dharma Sati village in Saran District on 16 July 2013 after eating pesticide-contaminated mid day meals.[24] 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.[42]


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 iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.[43] "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.[44] 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".[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chettiparambil-Rajan, Angelique (July 2007). "India: A Desk Review of the Mid-Day Meals Programme" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions on Mid Day Meal Scheme" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b "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. ^ "Mid-Day Meal Programme". National Institute of Health & Family Welfare. 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Tamil Nadu: Midday Manna". India Today Archive. 15 November 1982. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Annual Work Plan & Budget 2010–11, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Gujarat State" (PDF). Government of Gujarat. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Appraisal Note: State: Kerala" (PDF). Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Mid Day Meal" (PDF). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Lessons Outside the Classroom". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  12. ^ Garg, Manisha; Mandal, Kalyan Sankar (27 July 2013). "Mid-Day Meal for the Poor, Privatised Education for the Non-Poor". Economic and Political Weekly. 48 (30): 155. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Agenda note of 5th meeting of National Steering and Moitoring Committee meeting" (PDF). Mdm.nic.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  14. ^ Dr. N.C. Saxena. "Sixth Report Of the Commissioners" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Right to Food Campaign: Mid Day Meals". Righttofoodindia.org. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  16. ^ a b c "Mid Day Meals: A Primer" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Legal Action: Supreme Court Orders". Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  18. ^ "SUPREME COURT ORDER OF NOVEMBER 28, 2001". Rightoffoodindia.org. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d e f "ORDER OF APR 20, 2004". Rightoffoodindia.org.
  20. ^ "Guidelines of the School Health Programme" (PDF). Mohfw.nic.in. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  21. ^ a b Press Information bureau, HRD, Govt of India (22 December 2015). "Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Nutrition and Corporate Capital". Press Information. Ministry of Human Resource Development (30). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  22. ^ a b Joyita Ghose (23 July 2013). "the PRS Blog " The Mid Day Meal Scheme". Prsindia.org. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  23. ^ "123% jump in money allocated for UPA flagship schemes". Business Standard. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Chargesheet filed in Bihar midday meal tragedy". The Hindu. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  25. ^ "MHRD increases Cooking cost under mid-day meal scheme". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Interrogating 'best practices' for the Implementation of School Nutrition Programmes in Urban India" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  27. ^ "87 children die in school fire". The Hindu. 17 July 2004. Archived from the original on 18 July 2004. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  28. ^ "'Gravy' mistake: 8-yr-old girl falls in hot sambar, dies". DNA India. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  29. ^ "Towards more advantages from Mid-Day Meals" (PDF). Cordindia.com. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  30. ^ "Capital's MCD schools mid-day meal scheme fails nutrition test!". Zeenews.india.com. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  31. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  32. ^ "Mid Day Meal Scheme, First Review Mission" (PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  33. ^ "Monitoring of Mid-Day-Meal Scheme" (Press release). Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "India Together: Attendance up, but penetration poor - 07 May 2007". Indiatogether.org.
  36. ^ "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.
  37. ^ Lee, Joel; Thorat, Sukhdeo (24 September 2005). "Caste Discrimination and Food Security Programmes". Economic and Political Weekly. 40 (39): 4198–4201. JSTOR 4417187.
  38. ^ "India Together: Look beyond the food - 27 August 2013". Indiatogether.org.
  39. ^ "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.
  40. ^ "Scam shadow on meal scheme". The Telegraph, Kolkata. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006.
  41. ^ "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.
  42. ^ "Students fall ill after midday meal in Bihar". The Hindu. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  43. ^ Sengupta, Somini. (12 March 2009) Malnutrition of children in India continues. Nytimes.com. Retrieved on 18 February 2012.
  44. ^ "Madhya Pradesh tops India State Hunger list of 17". LiveMint. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  45. ^ Hunger in India alarming. BBC News (14 October 2008). Retrieved on 18 February 2012.