Edu / ImmiPunjab

ILL-Effects: Aluminium utensils not to be used for Mid-day meal in schools

Chandigarh: The Punjab government plans to use steel or brass utensils for mid-day meals in government schools, while aluminum utensils will be removed. The Mid-Day Meal Society has conducted a social audit of the scheme at Panjab University, based on which several new steps, including the aforementioned change, are being implemented.

A meeting between the Punjab Education Department and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has been scheduled in New Delhi on February 23 to seek central funds for improving and replacing mid-day meal equipment.

The social audit report recommends that mid-day meals in government schools, currently prepared in aluminum utensils, should be replaced with steel or brass utensils.

Sources indicate that the Union Ministry of Industry has also advised against using aluminum utensils for health reasons. Previously, Rs. 5,000 per school was allocated to purchase aluminum utensils for mid-day meals. Now, a grant of Rs. 10,000 per school is proposed for steel and brass utensils.

The Punjab government has drafted a Rs. 175-crore project to replace cooking utensils, separate from the overall Rs. 467 crore plan. The social audit identified kitchens in schools lacking chimneys, prompting recommendations to install chimneys or exhaust fans, with a planned budget of Rs. 1500 per school.

The report highlights issues such as children not washing their hands in schools, which a non-governmental organization is assisting to address. Damage to school sheds from floods in Punjab has prompted requests for repair budgets.

Additionally, the report advocates for serving more seasonal vegetables and rice-based menus, particularly in schools attended by children from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The recommended school diet includes milk, yogurt, cheese, fruits, and salads.

Fire extinguishers are also recommended for school repairs, along with advanced food grain and cooking expense provisions.

Schools are urged to adhere to government regulations by increasing minimum wages for cooks or helpers and providing gloves in addition to uniforms.

Regular tastings of school lunches by teachers and parents are encouraged to maintain quality. Recently, the Punjab government decided to provide seasonal fruits in mid-day meals every Monday, costing approximately Rs. 53 crore annually.

Currently, 18.35 lakh children from pre-nursery to class VIII are benefiting from mid-day meals in 19,120 government schools across Punjab, with a total of 19.75 lakh students enrolled.