On September 29th, the Central Government decided to rebrand the 26-year old national mid-day meal scheme. The scheme is called PM POSHAN (Poshan Shakti Nirman) scheme.
The scheme aims at providing hot cooked meals to 11.8 crore government school students from Class 1 to 8.
It also aims a holistic development by improving the nutritional status, encouraging education and learning and increasing enrolments in government schools.
From the next financial year, the scheme will cover 24 lakh children studying in balvatikas, the pre-primary section of government schools.
Although this year’s budget for mid-day meals remains unchanged, the Centre has promised an additional ₹266 crore to accommodate the needs of balvatika students from 2022-23.
The PM POSHAN scheme is approved for the next five-years until 2025-26, with a collective outlay of ₹1.31 lakh crore, including ₹31,733 crore as the share to be borne by the State governments.
There would also be a 5% flexi component which would be built into the existing budget to allow States to incorporate additional nutrition-rich elements such as fortified foods, fruits and milk as a part of the meals scheme.
The Centre also mandates social audits in all districts and college students, trainee teachers would be sent for field inspections to ensure the quality of meals.
The Centre would also maintain transparency by asking the States to direct cash transfers of cooking costs to individual school accounts, and honorarium amounts to the bank accounts of cooks and helpers.