Protein please: Call for eggs in midday meal grows

Non-government organisations and a few experts are writing to the Ministry of Women and Child Development seeking inclusion of eggs to meet the nutritional needs of children.

A week after a controversy erupted over inclusion of onion and garlic in Akshaya Patra Foundation’s midday meals, a demand to include eggs has been put forth.

Non-government organisations and a few experts are writing to the Ministry of Women and Child Development seeking inclusion of eggs to meet the nutritional needs of children. They have also suggested that the government look for alternative organisations if one of them refuses to serve eggs.

In a statement, Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan have sought that all contracts to Akshay Patra be stopped immediately for supply of midday meals to 4.43 lakh schoolchildren in Karnataka.

“...And eggs be supplied to the children of communities that are accustomed to eating them and midday meals be prepared through SHGs and other CBOs in accordance with nutritional norms and cultural practices, using fresh local products,” the statement reads.

Dr Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor from the state, is among those campaigning for eggs. “Eggs have to be provided to children at least three times a week. The purpose of midday meals is to give children nutritious food that they consume as usual diet. This is also region-specific. Keeping in mind that a majority of students studying in government schools consume egg, it has to be added as part of the midday meal,” she said.

Questioning if the non-government organisations were dictating terms to the government or otherwise, she said children should not be deprived of nutrition in the name of religious beliefs.

The Right to Food Campaign mentions that the National Institute of Nutrition recommends consumption of at least three eggs per week in view of several nutritional advantages and that animal protein is of high quality as it provides all essential amino acids in the right proportion.

The letter also quotes revised guidelines by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and states, “CSO/NGO should give the commitment to abide by the MDM guidelines issued by MHRD... and should not discriminate in any manner on the basis of religion, caste and creed and should not use the programme for propagation of any religious practice. It is evident that Akshaya Patra has flouted these norms from the beginning of the contract.”

Meanwhile, the Akshaya Patra foundation which refused to answer DH’s queries in entirety said, “It is our constant endeavour to contribute to the government’s efforts in promoting good health and nutrition among children which is essential for their holistic health.”

The foundation refused to explain what was being given as a supplement in place of eggs for protein in the diet.

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Protein please: Call for eggs in midday meal grows

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