Eggs, sprouts, millets once more part of mid-day meals: Karnataka

Eggs were first piloted in Karnataka's mid-day meals in eight districts in 2021. Earlier attempts to do this had faced opposition from extremist religious groups
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Karnataka’s school education department –under the newly elected Congress government– has proposed to the state government that eggs in mid-day meals be provided for 80 days instead of the current 46 days and to Class 9 and 10 students as well, the Indian Express reported. The state government is also reportedly planning to bring in millets and sprouts in its mid-day meals. To action this, a proposal has been sent to the union government in March 2023 (by the earlier government) requesting over 11,000 tons of millets.

“The proposal was sent to the union government in March this year, but we haven’t heard from them for the last three months. The union government has always insisted on including millets to increase the nutritional value and marking 2023 as the international year of millets,” a state government official told the Express.

However, the state government says that as of June 9, there was “no response to the proposal”. Mid-day meals are mandatorily provided by state governments to schoolchildren to improve their nutrition. Mid-day meal schemes also encourage attendance and prevent drop outs. Eggs were piloted in Karnataka’s mid-day meals in eight districts in 2021. Earlier attempts to do this had faced opposition from religious groups. A majority of children studying in government-run and government-aided schools in Karnataka are from Dalit, Adivasi, OBC and religious minority communities and consume eggs at home.

A report in the Hindustan Times states that an egg in mid-day meals pilot project improved students’ nutrition and the Union government has extended the provision of eggs in these districts till May next year. As for sprouts, the school education department wants to use them to decrease levels of anemia in children.

“Milk is not entirely protein. So we want to introduce sprouts, which are high in protein and can help fight anaemia and malnutrition among children. We still have to work out the cost of introducing sprouts because we have to procure them in the open market at competitive prices,” the Express report quoted a government official as saying.

Eggs in mid-day meals were piloted in eight Karnataka districts in 2021 and have been extended till May next year. The state’s school education department has sought the serving of eggs on more days of the academic year.

December 2021

One section of the powerful Lingayat community had, in December 2021 objected to eggs in the mid-day meals diet in the state.  Demanding that the state government to serve a “pure vegetarian” school meal, for children in government schools, this went against the cultural habits of a vast section of children who are not just egg eaters but come from non-vegetarian homes. At the time, Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh told the media that the decision to include boiled eggs in the mid-day meal scheme was based on “surveys and reports from the Centre that indicated malnourishment persisting among children. We also had inputs from experts that egg was the best-known single source of protein. This led to its inclusion in the mid-day meal scheme to help children combat malnutrition.” However, according to a report in The Indian Express the minister has added that the government is “exploring other options to provide protein-rich food to children as an alternative to egg.” He added that eggs “were not being forced”. Children who did not want eggs “were provided boiled bananas as a substitute.”

It was then that Anjali, a 14-year-old Karnataka schoolgirl challenges ‘upper caste’ leadersIt took a 14-year-old Karnataka schoolgirl’s speech directed at the powerful Hindu leaders opposing boiled eggs in midday meals to refuel the conversation. The video clip of Anjali, a Class VIII student of MNM Government Girls School at Gangavati in Koppal district, has now gone viral. She questions the seers on why they want to deprive poor children of the only access they have to eggs, “Don’t we pay obeisance to you after eating eggs and taking a bath? Don’t we offer cash to your maths? Why are you eating with our money? You throw away that money, or give it back to us. We will eat (food).”


Why does the Karnataka government not want children to eat eggs at mid day meals?



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