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Hearty meal for healthy students

Beginning July, children at state-run schools will be offered eggs, bananas and jaggery every alternate week apart from the staple diet of rice, dal and green vegetables under the midday meal programme.

The administration has made it mandatory for all primary (Classes I-V) and upper primary (Classes VI-VIII) schools to include these nutritious food items with the cooking cost per child being revised from this fiscal.

Rates per child for 2013-14, which will come into effect from July, have been hiked from Rs 3.33 to Rs 3.51 at the primary level and from Rs 4.99 to Rs 5.25 for upper primary students.

“The children will be served either eggs or bananas and jaggery every alternate week. We have directed all schools to provide eggs to those who like it while those preferring fruits will get banana and jaggery,” said Mamta, the director of state primary education.

Ajay Kumar, principal of a middle school in Nagri, welcomed the changes. “With the cooking cost per child being increased, we will be able to provide iron-rich food to our students. Eggs, bananas and jaggery will be part of the midday meal apart from green vegetables,” he said.

According to data available with the state education department, around 27 lakh students (primary and upper primary level) of 39,000-odd government schools are benefiting from the state’s ambitious meal scheme meant to check the dropout rate.

The state is also planning to extend the midday meal scheme to 35 lakh students (26 lakh in primary section and 9 lakh at upper primary level) in the current financial year. “This is our target, but it may increase,” Mamta said

Further, for effective functioning of the programme, the department has formed a comprehensive three-tier monitoring system at state, district and block levels. The cell has phone numbers of the members of Village Education Committee and principals of schools serving midday meals.

The state expects the number of children availing midday meals at schools to swell this year with several grey areas like less cooking costs, irregular payment to cooks, lack of kitchen sheds and interrupted supply of foodgrains being addressed.