Enhancing Nutrition and Education: A Look into Dharan’s Mid-Day Meal Program

-Ashish Shrestha, SOCHAI Youth Volunteer 

In the bustling city of Dharan, a national nutrition initiative is underway to ensure that every child receives not just an education but also adequate nutrition to support their growth and development. The mid-day meal program, implemented in government schools, aims to provide nutritious meals to students studying in government schools. However, as with any program, there are both successes and challenges to navigate. 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to observe the mid-day meal program in two government schools: Public High School (Dharan-12) and Shree Siksha Sadan Secondary School (Dharan-15). The experience shed light on the commendable efforts made by school authorities and highlighted areas where improvements are needed. 

One of the program’s strengths is its ability to reach a large number of students, with over 970 students combined up to class 5 in both schools benefiting from the initiative. However, despite the significant reach, there are notable challenges that need to be addressed. 

A major problem with the mid-day meal program is the lack of comprehensive knowledge about the program among participants. While students and staff are aware of the existence of the mid-day meal program, there is limited understanding of its details and significance. This underscores the need for awareness programs to bridge the information gap and ensure all stakeholders fully comprehend the program’s objectives and benefits. 

Another critical concern is the discrepancy between the meals provided and the government’s standard criteria. While snacks worth Rs.15 per student daily are distributed, the meals do not consistently meet nutritional standards. Students have expressed dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of the meals, indicating a need for menu planning aligned with nutritional guidelines. 

Budget constraints pose a significant challenge to the program’s sustainability. Insufficient funds hinder the schools’ ability to provide adequate and nutritious meals, leading to financial strain and, in some cases, losses. Effective management of allocated funds and coordination with local government bodies are essential to address this constraint and ensure the program’s continuity. 

Despite these challenges, there are positive aspects to acknowledge. The cleanliness and tidiness of the kitchen spaces demonstrate a commitment to hygiene in meal preparation, laying the foundation for safe and healthy food practices. However, monitoring and evaluation are necessary to maintain these standards and address any lapses promptly. 

To wrap it all up, the Mid-Day Meal Program in Dharan holds promise as a vital intervention in promoting both nutrition and education among school-going children. By addressing the identified challenges and implementing the recommended measures, we can enhance the program’s effectiveness and ensure that every child receives not just an education but also the nourishment they need to thrive. Together, we can build a brighter future for the children of Dharan, one meal at a time. 

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