Improving the nutrition quality of the school feeding program (Mid day meal) in India through fortification: a case study.
Micronutrient malnutrition is widely prevalent in school children in India. India’s national school feeding program, the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme, is the largest in the world and caters to 120 million children in primary schools. Complementary strategies such as deworming or fortifying meals provided through the MDM scheme could increase the nutritional impact of this program. India’s Supreme Court has directed that only hot, cooked meals be provided in MDM, through a decentralised model. However, in urban areas, big centralised kitchens cook and serve a large number of schools, with some kitchens serving up to 150,000 children daily. The objective of this project was to test the operational feasibility of fortifying the school meal in centralised kitchens, as well as the acceptability of fortified meals by recipients. A pilot was conducted in 19 central kitchens run by the Naandi Foundation in four different States. Several food vehicles were used for fortification: wheat flour, soyadal- analogue and biscuits. More than 750, 000 children were reached with fortified food on all school days for a period of one year. Fortified food was found to be acceptable to all stakeholders. The government is in favour of continuing fortification. The Naandi Foundation has adopted fortification as their norm and continues to fortify all meals provided from their central kitchens.
IN CONCLUSION: fortification of school meals with micronutrients can be integrated in the normal cooking process and is well accepted by all stakeholders. This pilot could hold lessons for other states in adopting fortification in MDM.