New Delhi, (IANS): Poor quality of food grains given to schools by the Food Corporation of India and late payment of dues to school management committees were among the reasons for the poor performance of the mid-day meal scheme, experts say.
At a review meeting of the scheme, chaired by Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju, the experts stressed on the need for convergence of services at the village level as well as better monitoring.
The meeting, held Wednesday, was attended by top officials of the health ministry, rural development ministry, tribal affairs ministry, ministry of minority affairs and drinking water and sanitation, an official release said.
"The main problem is with the supply chain which includes the poor quality of grains given by the Food Corporation of India and late payments to the school management committee," Supreme Court-appointed commissioner on mid-day meals N.C. Saxena said.
He said cooks do not get salaries for months and children are being deprived of vegetables in their meals. Health Secretary K. Desiraju suggested that a mechanism should be explored to utilise over eight lakh primary health workers in villages for monitoring the quality and hygiene of the meals.
The chairman of the Food Security and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) suggested that his organisation has more than 300 accredited labs across the country which can be utilised for testing food. He also suggested that the FSSAI can help in maintaining the quality, hygiene and safety of the food at the district level.
The human resource development minister said the possibility of involving youth in the scheme should be explored. He also favoured the use of local food like ragi (finger millet), jowar (sorghum) and maize in meals for their nutritious values.
Last month, 23 children of a village school in Bihar's Saran district lost their lives after eating a poisonous mid-day meal.