Punjab govt to introduce seasonal fruits in mid-day meal again : The Tribune India

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Punjab govt to introduce seasonal fruits in mid-day meal again

Punjab govt to introduce seasonal fruits in mid-day meal again

A teacher distributes kinnows among students as part of mid-day meal. File



Tribune News Service

Ruchika M Khanna

Chandigarh, July 8

The state government will soon re-introduce seasonal fruits in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. Launched with much fanfare in February this year, the scheme had fizzled out within a month of its launch.

Scheme had fizzled out within month

  • Launched with much fanfare by the state government in February this year, the scheme had fizzled out within a month; at present, each child is being given a banana every Saturday
  • With a good litchi production in Gurdaspur, the Education Department is mulling introducing it in mid-day meals for students of pre-nursery to Class VIII under PM POSHAN scheme

With a good litchi production in Gurdaspur, the Education Department is mulling introducing litchi in mid-day meals for the students of pre-nursery to Class VIII under the PM POSHAN scheme. Rajesh Sharma, DEO (Secondary) in Gurdaspur, said at present, they were giving a banana to each child every Saturday.

The introduction of litchi in the mid-day meal, however, will depend on whether litchi growers want to sell the produce to schools for the purpose. If they continue to get a good rate in the market, or continue to get orders for export, they may not like to sell it to government schools at discounted rates.

The practice of including these local seasonal fruits was started by the Aam Aadmi Party government earlier this year on a request of farmer unions and kinnow growers, who were forced to uproot their orchards when they did not get a good price for their produce. It was then decided that as and when seasonal fruits like litchi, mango, berry, guava and peach come in the market, these will be given to the students as part of the mid-day meals.

However, the scheme was discontinued after the kinnow season. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, an orchardist, told The Tribune that this year, the kinnow production was low while the farmers had suffered huge losses last year. “But if the government re-introduces kinnow in the students’ diet, it will be beneficial for the growers and children will get fibre-rich fruit,” he said. Farmers had sold kinnows to schools at the rate of Rs 5 per kinnow.

Lakhwinder Kaur, president of the Mid-Day Meal Workers Union, Punjab, said kinnow was distributed to students only in February and March, but no other seasonal fruits were distributed as part of mid-day meals.

Officials in the Education Department said since the schools had reopened now after the summer break, they were again looking at re-introducing seasonal fruits for students in their mid-day meals. “The schools decide the menu at the local level. As of now, one banana is given to the children once a week,” said a top official in the department.

The officer said the scheme to give seasonal fruits was started to help out farmers, who were not getting a good price for the produce. “Banana is a much more nutritious fruit than others and is not as perishable as many other seasonal fruits,” he said, adding that it was only in January that banana was introduced in the mid-day meals.

Meanwhile, it is also learnt that it is only towards the end of the fiscal that the unused funds of the mid-day meals are transferred to flexi funds, from where the money to buy the fruits is utilised. Sources said it was thus easier to buy fruits for mid-day meals when there were enough funds at the disposal of the government.

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