Parliamentary panel suggests distribution of packaged food to schoolkids

MealFood cooked in schools for children has come under the scanner especially on hygiene and quality. (Reuters)

Taking note of the increasing complaints about the food served under mid-day meal scheme in schools,a Parliamentary panel has suggested distribution of packaged food to children.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD has asked the Ministry to "explore the feasibility of providing packaged nutrition food in conformity with norms and standards of the scheme".

This may be done initially on a pilot basis in some selected districts to ascertain its viability, it suggested. The food cooked in schools for children has come under

the scanner especially on hygiene and quality.

Reports indicate that even in Delhi, quality of food being served in schools was found to be wanting in norms and standards prescribed under the programme.

If the situation is such in the capital, what would be the position in interior could well be imagined," the committee, headed by Rajya Sabha member Oscar Fernandes, said.

The panel also drew the attention of the working group which had suggested roping in the Food and Nutrition Board to provide training to teachers and cook-cum-helpers and for regular monitoring of food safety among others.

One of the particular concerns of the committee was that hundreds of schools were lagging behind in meeting the infrastructure requirements, including construction of kitchen cum-stores, under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The deadline for meeting these requirements had ended on March 31. According to ministry reports, of 9.55 lakh kitchen-cum- stores sanctioned between 2006-07 and 2012-13, only 5.99 lakh or 63 per cent of them have been constructed.

In states such as Andhra Pradesh, only 3,077 have been put in place out of the 75,283 kitchen-cum-stores sanctioned. "Proper kitchen-cum-stores have to be in place.

Only then, it can be ensured that students are being served good quality meal as mandated," the committee said.

It recommended follow-up action by state governments for completing kitchen-cum-stores to ensure their construction at the earliest.

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