Activists slam clean chit to Akshaya Patra midday meals

The ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition’s (NIN) recent report that the midday meals provided in schools by The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) are nutritious enough has come under criticism. 

The Women and Child Development Department had sought a report from the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) and the ICMR-NIN following questions about the nutritional quality of the meals and concerns over the exclusion of essential ingredients such as onion and garlic. 

TAPF provides food to 2,814 schools in six districts of Karnataka as part of the state government’s mid-day meal scheme. 

At least 10 organisations and several activists have shot off a letter seeking the recall of the ICMR-NIN report. The Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali (KJC) and the Right to Food Campaign are among the signatories.

“We are dismayed at the unscientific, biased and irresponsible response sent by the institute through its director to the request from Government of Karnataka regarding the assessment of the nutritional value of food supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation (sic),” reads the letter. 

It goes on: “While Central Food Technological Research Institute has refused to comment on the nutritional quality, taste, diversity and safety of food supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation instead asking for sufficient time and resources to do a proper assessment. NIN, on the other hand, to our utter shock and dismay, has made sweeping statements praising APF, without carrying out any systematic scientific study (sic).” 

The critics pointed out that the ICMR-NIN neither did any ground report nor collected any empirical data before submitting the report. There should have been a survey to certify that the food supplied would give the children adequate nutrition, they said. 

Stating that the report would impact lakhs of children, the signatories want it recalled, pending a systematic field evaluation of the midday meals supplied by TAPF. 

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