Why ‘anda’ continues to receive egg spelled in the lunch menus | Indian news

Midday Meals (MDM) is one of India’s policy success stories, but the scheme has become controversial in recent years with some religious groups opposing egg distribution to students as part of the school lunch.
The most recent battleground is Karnataka, where the government recently announced that it planned to lay eggs 46 days a year as part of the midday snack Program. Vegetarian students have the option of choosing fruit or chikki. But despite the options, the move has already sparked protests. Tejaswini, wife of the late MP and former Union Minister Ananth Kumar, who runs Adamya Chetana, a facility that prepares meals for school children, tweeted: “Why did our Karnataka government decide to give eggs in the midday meal? These are not the only source of nutrition. It is also exclusive for many students who are vegetarians. ”
It’s not just Karnataka. In Lakshadweep, calls were made to close dairy farms and remove non-vegetarian food from midday meals. Eventually, a Supreme Court order allowed children to be served. Similarly, there was a long tug-of-war in Madhya Pradesh, when the government replaced eggs with milk.
FIX MALNUTRITION
This debate, right to food activists argue, pits nutritional benefits against religious sentiments and caste-based notions of purity. Dr. Veena Shatrugna, former deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition
(NIN) Hyderabad says these discussions ignore the fact that more than 70% of India’s population is non-vegetarian and the country has a high burden of malnutrition. “Growing children and even adults need protein. The body uses all the protein that we get from milk and eggs, not only for muscles, bones, and organs, but also for molecules and enzymes,” he says. Without adequate protein, the fat-to-muscle ratio becomes distorted. According to their published research, even underweight Indians weighing 35kg have a fat content of 35%, instead of the required 20-25%.
The NIN Dietary Guidelines manual also clearly states the need for animal protein as it is “high quality” and “provides all the essential amino acids in the right proportions. ” They are also not easily spoiled and cannot be adulterated like cereals.
Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, a public health physician, researcher, and activist, says that school lunch has several benefits. “There is evidence to show that midday meals not only improve school attendance and child nutrition, but also help children eat together and thus break down some of the social norms around gender, caste and religion. ”
Even in Karnataka, a pilot was conducted for the first time in seven districts and the Karnataka State Rural Development University and Panchayat Raj, Gadag, studied the impact of including eggs in midday meals, compared to bananas. After 100 days, they found that the children in the district with eggs “had better average weight gain in all classes except class V, where it was about the same. “There wasn’t much resistance to eating eggs, either, with 83% of students eating them on at least half the days they were provided.
However, there has been resistance from some NGOs who do not want to serve eggs for religious reasons. In some cases, states have to provide them to private companies, which is often not the case.
BEST DIET ONLY FOR A FEW
Even in states where the government has mandated the provision of eggs, the situation on the ground reflects a different reality. Chhattisgarh-based activist Gangaram Paikra says that only children who are considered severely malnourished receive eggs at MDM. “Those are the funds they give them. In each anganwadi, only 1-2 children are given eggs. This is also because they don’t want the data to show how common malnutrition is,” he says, adding that this is despite the large adivasi population in the state. And he adds: “The government should not decide what adivasis eat. They talk about development, but the children are not growing, physically or mentally. What is the use of building roads and houses without this development?”
Dr. Karpagam says that despite the National Institute of Nutrition recommending at least three eggs a week, this has not been implemented in most places. “While caste has been studied in several dimensions, little work has been done on how predominantly vegetarian researchers interpret research findings and how vegetarian policymakers translate nutritional guidelines into policy. Understanding this would allow for better and more informed policymaking,” he adds.
It is even more important as nutrition indicators change by caste, he notes. In Karnataka, the prevalence of stunting was found to be 39.3% of ST children and 39.1% of SC children, compared to 36.2% overall, according to the National Health Survey Family 2015. Similarly with weight, 40.1% of SC students were underweight, as were 40.3% of students in ST communities. Overall, it was 35.2%.
JUST FILLING STOMACHES
In Jharkhand, activist James Herenj says that while the state has allowed eggs to be served six days a week, supply chain problems mean they are only given to children two or three times a week at most. He adds that eggs not only have nutritional benefits, but could also be useful to the community at large. “There are no eggs in Integrated Child Development Services centers. If they needed it regularly, egg farming could be a great source of employment in the state. ”
Decisions about what children eat should be based on science, Dr. Shatrugna emphasizes. “It just shouldn’t be about calories. People also need protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a whole range of nutrients from food. However, free food often becomes a simple exercise to fill the stomach. “The attitude is that the poor should be happy with what they are given, even if much of it is just grain. ”
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