NEW DELHI: Nearly 10 organisations and 100 individuals, including civil society activists and public health activists, have written to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) asking it to withdraw its go-ahead to the Akshay Patra Foundation for supplying mid-day meals in about 2,800 schools in Karnataka without onion and garlic for religious reasons.
The NIN, tasked by the state government to assess if the meals provided by the foundation were nutritious enough, had come up with the report without proper evaluation, the signatories have claimed.
The Akshay Patra foundation, a sister concern of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), supplies food to government schools in six districts of Karnataka and has been refusing to include onion and garlic in mid-day meals as it considers these ingredients to be ‘tamasik’.
This is in violation of not only the menu prescribed by the state government but also the terms of Memorandum of Understanding signed by the foundation itself, the activists said. It also violates the Union Human Resources Development Ministry’s guidelines which prohibits the propagation of private beliefs through mid-day meal scheme, they added.
“NIN... to our utter shock and dismay, has made sweeping statements praising APF, without carrying out any systematic scientific study. No empirical data was collected on the quantity and quality of ingredients used or amount consumed and amount wasted by children to certify food supplied by APF as nutritionally adequate,” the letter said.
“Instead, a paper menu submitted by APF, was considered evidence enough. The eagerness exhibited by NIN to offer opinions in this case, in absence of any scientific field evaluation, raises serious questions regarding NIN’s credibility and independence,” the activists added.