Mid-day meal: Lack of quality testing leaves students at the mercy of suppliers
Despite the report of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), an independent monitoring institute, that around 64 per cent children did not like the poor quality of mid-day meal being served by NGOs in schools, the Directorate of Education had discontinued the quality testing of meals from March 1, 2015.
The laxity is more shocking in the light of the fact that in the annual review meeting on March 13, 2015, Delhi’s Education Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava had assured the Central government that the state will develop a “format for quality checks” to ensure that “only quality meals” were served to children.
“No sample of mid day meal was picked up for testing for nutritional value of protein and calories from March 1, 2015,” said Directorate of Education (DoE) in reply to an RTI query signed by Abhineet Sapra, Assistant Director (mid day meal). According to the provision of DoE, the designated laboratory picks four samples every month, two from kitchens and two from schools, to test its nutritional values and hygienic standards.
Presently, DoE has outsourced the supply of mid-day meal to 43 NGOs in the city. These NGOs supply the lunch to around 8.52 lakh students studying in primary and upper primary schools of the Delhi government. According to the norms, 172 samples of the mid-day meal should have been tested every month to monitor the quality and hygienic standard of the food supplied by these NGOs but in the absence of this testing, the students are left at the mercy of suppliers.
In the meeting with the Central government, Srivastava had also informed that tenders were already floated for new laboratories but the department was tight-lipped on why the laboratories could not be hired even after four-and-half months.
“I am not authorised to talk to media,” said Sapra, when he was contacted on Tuesday.
Secretary and director of the Education Department could not be contacted despite several efforts while Sapra’s contact was provided by DoE to get information about the issue.
In its report, CSDS had mentioned that food (puri and rice) was found under -cooked and over-cooked during the field visit at various schools in city in the last academic session.
“Around 65 children complained that quality of the food was not sufficient. The field team also found that the weight of two puris served to primary children was just 70-80 gm,” said CSDS in its report to the Centre.
“The difference between actual consumption of food and entry in the registers was from 7-8 per cent at primary school and 12-16 per cent at upper primary schools level,” added the report.
It is also important to mention that in the previous reports, over 84 per cent mid-day samples have failed the quality standards.
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