NEW DELHI: The Centre has asked all states to get cooks-cum-helpers in government schools to get trained by “master trainers” to prepare more hygienic and better quality mid-day meals.
The Ministry for Human Resource Development (HRD) has directed that the cooks’ training should be completed by the year-end.
“A majority of cooks in the schools have little understanding of nutrition, cooking, health, hygiene, cleaning of raw grains and vegetables, recipes, serving skills, time management, maintenance of stock and cash registers. We want to start this capacity building programme,” an HRD ministry official said.
About 950 master trainers have been trained by chefs at the Institutes of Hotel Management and Food Craft Institutes in states under a tourism ministry scheme.
The mid-day meal scheme is a school meal programme of the Central government designed to improve the nutritional status of school students nationwide. The programme, launched in 1995, supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes. However, there have been concerns with the quality and standards of food prepared and served to school children through the scheme.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in a report tabled in parliament early this year, had also put a question mark on the quality of food saying that it was “extremely poor in many states.
The report had also raised many red flags such as over-reporting of enrolment figures, financial indiscipline, poor quality of means and inadequate meals.
“Cases of cooking of poor quality meals in unhygienic conditions, inadequate and poor quality of infrastructure in terms of kitchen sheds and utensils were rampant across all states exposing children to health hazards,” the report had added.
The report also observed that the checks to ensure quality of meals and adequacy of nutritional value of food served to children remained only on paper.
The inadequate monitoring of the scheme by the human resource ministry and the states was a major bottleneck in implementation. The funds earmarked for monitoring and evaluation had been grossly underutilized, the report cited.