The midday meals for students in state or supported schools should be supplemented with breakfast, as suggested in the new National Education Policy (NEP). The policy, approved by the Union cabinet earlier this week, has determined that the morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for studying more cognitively challenging subjects, and therefore recommended that breakfast programs be added to the lunch meal program.
“Children cannot learn optimally if they are malnourished or uncomfortable. Therefore, children’s nutrition and health (including mental health) is addressed through healthy meals and the introduction of well-trained social workers, counselors and community involvement, ”the directive says.
“In addition, research shows that the morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for studying more cognitively demanding subjects. Therefore, these hours can be used by offering a simple but energetic breakfast in addition to lunch,” he added.
In places where hot meals are not possible, a simple but nutritious meal – peanuts or chana mixed with jaggery and local fruits – can be offered. “All schoolchildren have to undergo regular health checks, especially for 100-piece school vaccinations, and health cards are issued to monitor them,” the directive said.
The revised guideline stipulates that every child changes to a “preparatory class” or “Balavatika” before the age of 5.
“Learning in the preparatory class should primarily be based on playful learning, with the focus on developing cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills as well as early reading and arithmetic skills. The lunch program is also extended to the preparatory classes in primary schools. “Health examinations and growth monitoring, which are available in the Anganwadi system, should also be made available to students in the preparatory class of Anganwadi as well as primary schools,” says the policy document.
The National School Lunch Program, popularly known as the Lunch Program (MDMS), is an ongoing, centrally-funded program that covers all schoolchildren who study in government grades 1 through 8 with government-sponsored schools, special education centers, including ‘Madarsas ‘that are supported under’ Samagra Shiksha ‘.
“Under the provisions of the 2013 National Food Security Act, children studying in grades 1 through 8 or between 6 and 14 years of age are entitled to a free lunch, every day except during school holidays, schools run by local authorities , Governments and government-sponsored schools are operated to meet nutritional standards set out in the law, ”said a senior official from the Department of Human Resources Development.
“However, some states and territories of the Union provide students with additional items such as milk, egg and fruit from their own resources,” added the official.
At least 11.59 million elementary school students are beneficiaries of the Ministry of Personnel Development’s (HRD) lunch program, while nearly 26 lakh cooking assistants work for the same.
The ministry also advised states during the ban that students should be given lunches or food security allowances until the schools are closed due to the novel outbreak of the corona virus.
The NEP replaces the 34-year national education policy set in 1986 and is intended to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and university systems to make India a global superpower in knowledge.