Broader Mid-Day Meal Programme - Results of the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) released last month showed high levels of malnutrition and nutrient deficient in India’s school-going children and adolescents

Findings of the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey

The CNNS shows that the diets of school-age children are highly deficient, and they consume lower than recommended amounts of most healthy foods.

  • According to Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) data
  • 22% of children 5-9 were stunted (low height for age), and
  • 23% were thin (low Body Mass Index for age). 
  • 24% of adolescents (age 10-14) were thin.
  • The prevalence of stunting was higher among children who were out of school.
  • Among richer kids, there is the danger of obesity and non-communicable diseases.

These shortcomings in the diet of both poor and rich Indian school students leads to the question: would India benefit from an improved, universal school lunch Programme, available across both government and private schools, to the rich and the poor, with more variety, more protein and greater micro-nutrient coverage?

Mid-day Meals:

  • Mid-day meals in India’s government schools were envisaged to stop hunger from keeping children away from schools and to improve enrolment.
  • The Mid Day Meal is a significant part of the diet of Indian children. 
  • The meal is available to all primary and upper primary children (classes 1 to 8) in government schools, government-aided schools and Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) schools.
  • Not every child entitled to the mid-day meal receives it. 
  • The survey shows that 82% of children in government schools reported getting a mid-day meal. 
  • In all, at least half of all children in classes 1-8 in India get a mid-day meal.


For many, the mid-day meal is invaluable. 

  • The 2011-12 National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows, 10% of the meals that all primary school-age children (5-9) in rural India receive in a month are from school.
  • According to the NSS data the poorest children in both rural and urban India get more meals per head from school than richer children, shows.
  • There is evidence that the Mid Day Meal has contributed to the gradual improvement in child malnutrition indicators. 
  • In Madhya Pradesh, researcher Farzana Afridi found that an improved mid-day meal reduced the daily protein deficiency of a primary school student by 100%, the calorie deficiency by almost 30% and the daily iron deficiency by nearly 10%.
  • Even in high-income countries like Finland, school lunches which are free for all children are the healthiest meal that children eat in a day.

The nutritional value of the meal is far from satisfactory

  • Each hot cooked meal is meant to provide a primary school child with 450 calories and 12 grams of protein, and an upper primary child with at least 700 calories and 20 grams of protein. This is often not the case for example,
  • Example: This year, journalist Pawan Jaisal recorded a government school in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur    serving the children rotis and salt only.
  • Example: In 2012-13, 90% of school lunches served to primary school students in Delhi did not meet the energy and protein norms.

Way Forward

Delivery of mid-day meal scheme may be improved by partnering with private entities and non-government organizations (NGOs) and by including chikki, sukhdi, fortified nutrition bar, and fruit in the weekly menu. 

This, will not only complement nutritional intake, but offer safety and variety and, by reducing the distribution time, may offer more contact time between students and teachers for studies.