Eleven months after its launch the chief minister’s morning breakfast scheme in Tamil Nadu has been extended to all primary school children studying in 31,000 government schools across TN. With an outlay of Rs 404 crores, the expansion of the scheme has ensured the purpose of the century-old programme of providing meals in schools is fulfilled.
Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Friday launched the scheme expansion at a middle school in Thirukkuvalai, the birth place of his father and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. The scheme which was first launched on September 15, 2022 to provide nutritious breakfast to 1,14,095 students of classes 1 to 5 studying in 1,545 government schools has yielded good results. A total of Rs 33.56 crore was allocated. Now, the scheme has been extended to 31,000 government schools across the state which will benefit 17 lakh students in the primary schools.
As Stalin inaugurated the expansion scheme in Thirukkuvalai, all his MPs and MLAs went to their respective constituencies to participate and had breakfast with the school children. “I don’t consider this as a fund allotment, but as an investment in the future of our children,” Stalin said as he launched the scheme recalling how the noon meal programme was introduced in TN.
The morning breakfast scheme which has proved to be a huge success has resulted not just in the improvement of attendance but also helps in preventing malnutrition, improving their health condition - achieve average height, prevent underweight and anaemia in children. The government apparently devised a long-term plan to implement the scheme during its launch.
Special and hygienic kitchens were set up in schools to provide morning breakfast. The government has also deployed IOT and Automation from the start ups in the state, to ensure that the food cooked is 100 percent hygienic. In urban areas, community kitchens have been identified to cook breakfast and then send it to various schools, involving Self Help Groups (SHGs).
The government also ensured that the food cooked everyday is served to the children, only after the school management committee tastes it. State, District and School level monitoring committees were also formed to monitor the implementation of the scheme.
The menu includes - rava upma, pongal, semiya upma and kesari - from Monday to Friday. The ingredients being 50 grams of cereals like rava, wheat, rice, millets, 15 grams of dhal, vegetables. Spending Rs 12.75 per child it is ensured that 150 to 200 grams of cooked food and 60 grams of sambar with vegetables are being served everyday for each and every child.
While the success of the scheme had paved way its expansion, it has ensured that the purpose of the 100-year-old noon meal programme launched by former Chief Minister Kamaraj in 1957 has evolved to fulfil its purpose. TN, in fact, has a long history of providing food to students in government schools- the mid day meal scheme- was first conceived by the Justice Party in TN. The scheme was later expanded during the MGR regime for children between two to nine years old, while Karunanidhi added eggs and bananas to the menu, and Jayalalithaa introduced variety rice.
And now Stalin’s idea of adding morning breakfast, says Bharathi Shanmugam, a teacher in one of the primary schools, has ensured that there is an increase in attendance and will help in bringing down the school dropouts. “There was a huge gap after the pandemic. Children never came back to school and most of them went to work. In my school there are 102 children. At least 97 turn up everyday because there is morning breakfast and afternoon lunch,” Bharathi adds.