The mid-day meal programme provides the children studying at the Swarachna Learning and Resource Centre a complete meal as part of their daily routine during the school day. The center prepares a nutritionally balanced meal for over 450 children on 240 working days in a year. The kitchen and other resources required for preparing the meal are provided by the center.
The programme also creates employment for those villagers who are engaged in the process of procuring and preparing the meal. Since these are generally the women folk of the village, who are also mothers of the students, the quality of the meal is ensured.
Need for the Project
Reading books and solving equations in a classroom is not possible on a hungry stomach.
Hunger is a basic survival need of human beings making it a biological imperative that overshadows most other needs, including education. Many of us focus on providing education to underprivileged children but we tend to miss the fact that a hungry and malnourished child cannot focus on books and study.
As highlighted by UNICEF’s “The State of the World’s Children 2011” report, the health indicators of the country indicate poor child health conditions. The report further highlights that malnutrition is found mostly in rural and remote areas, both of which conditions are applicable to our target area, Sidhauli Block, Sitapur District, Uttar Pradesh.
During a health check up camp in the school, organized by Milaan, it was revealed that 85% of the children in the school are malnourished. Many of the children in the school come from very poor Dalit backgrounds and generally carry last night’s leftover as lunch which is normally a chapatti with pickle or sugar. This meal is neither sufficient nor good for the health of the children. Lack of resources including money is a major contributing factor to the malnutrition in the area which leads to many life taking diseases.
Absenteeism was high. Regular illnesses were reported. The conditions were not conducive to education.
Reading books and solving equations in a classroom is not possible on a hungry stomach. Hunger is a basic survival need of human beings making it a biological imperative that overshadows most other needs, including education. Many of us focus on providing education to underprivileged children but we tend to miss the fact that a hungry and malnourished child cannot focus on books and study.
The condition is a serious hindrance to the work of imparting quality education. As a result, Milaan began the process of providing one complete, well balanced meal during the school day.
Major Outcomes and Impact
The two instant and visible impacts of the mid day meal programme are that, one the academic performance of the student has gone up and second the school is able to retain a greater number of children. The incentive of a full belly keeps the children coming back to the school everyday which means that they regularly attend classes which in turn has a direct impact on their grades.
Another direct result of regular nutritious meals is that it helps in building the immune systems in the children enabling them to resist diseases that are caused by lack of adequate nutrition, including tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases, iron and iodine deficiency, rickets, osteoporosis and will help in combating psychological effects such as depression as well as in preventing psychological impairment. Good health, again, allows them to attend school regularly.
The promise of a good meal, for their children, acts as an incentive for parents to send their children to the school thus increasing enrollments, ultimately allowing us to reach out to more children. Further, since the womenfolk preparing the meal are also the mothers of the students, it creates a greater participation of the parents within the center. Not only does this ensure the quality of the food but creates a natural monitoring process that positively impacts all activities of the center.