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PUNJAB -Kids’ diet to include honey, mushrooms

October 10, 2020 07:24 AM


Kids’ diet to include honey, mushrooms

Punjab seeks 15% extra funds from Centre to include 2 food items in mid-day meals provided to 14.5 lakh students. HT FILE
Navneet Sharma

Chandigarh : The Punjab school education department has decided to accept the Centre’s suggestion to include honey and mushroom in mid-day meals served to 14.5 lakh children of government schools across the state, but wants it to foot the bill.

The school education department will write to the Union ministry of education for a 15% hike in the mid-day meal cooking cost to enable it to include the two food items in its menu to provide additional nutrients to school-going children. The central ministry had last month advised all the states and union territories to explore the feasibility of inclusion of honey and mushroom under the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme.

Union education ministry’s joint secretary, elementary education, RC Meena had, in a letter to the state’s school education secretary on September 28, suggested inclusion of the two food items. Honey is a complete meal containing micronutrients that enhance metabolism and digestion, whereas mushroom is proven super-food rich and will help bridge the protein deficiency gap. Mushroom is also rich in folic acid which is beneficial for brain health, he wrote, listing the benefits.

The advisory was sent after Union minister of state for agriculture and farmers welfare Kailash Chaudhary requested the Union education ministry to include the two food items in MDM Scheme and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) for the proper mental and physical growth of children and also support the farmers as the production of both honey and mushroom has increased substantially due to sustained efforts in recent years. IPS Malhotra, officer on special duty (OSD) to director general of school education, and in-charge of MDM in Punjab, said the department is positive but needs additional funds.

“The cooking cost sanctioned under the MDM Scheme is not adequate. We are sending a proposal for increase in cooking cost. If they approve it, we will introduce the two food items,” he said.

Punjab has been allocated Rs 201 crore, including Rs 99 crore for primary students and Rs 102 crore for those in upper primary classes, as cooking cost for mid-day meal for the financial year 2020-21 with 60:40 fund sharing between the Central and state governments. Of this, the Centre has to provide Rs 121 crore and the rest will come from the state government. At present, the state’s mid-day weekly menu includes dal, seasonal vegetables, kala chana (black chickpeas) and kadhi with rice or rotis with kheer.

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