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India's Mid Day Meal Scheme is amongst the world's most extensive school lunch programmes in the world. The national program covers more than 116 million children across the country. A new analysis explored the intergenerational benefits of providing meals in primary schools. The study stated that the children who had been beneficiaries of the scheme continue to have better growth prospects in life. Titled 'Intergenerational Nutrition Benefits of India's National School Feeding Programme', the study was published by Nature and noted," School meals benefit education and nutrition in participants. Still, no study examined that the benefits would carry over to their children."
Mothers and children from 1993 to 2016 were assessed to calculate the impact of mid-day meals across generations and the results were astonishing. The mothers who had benefitted from the schools' meals had children with better linear growth than those otherwise. An inadequate linear increase leads to stunting and hinders socio-economic development in a child.
Thirty-eight per cent of children within the country were reportedly stunted in 2015-2016. It is imperative to address the nutritional deficiencies amongst school-going children, essential for growth and development. Free meals are one of the reasons that government schools have seen progress in the attendance of students. Suman Chakrabarti, one of the International Food Policy Research Institute researchers, said , "Findings suggest that intervening during primary school years can make important contributions to future child stunting, particularly given the cumulative exposure that possible through school feeding programs".
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, free meals have slowed down in pace. The imminent school closures have led the children missing out on nutritious meals. However, despite mid-day meals being so prevalent across the country, India is home to the highest number of under-nourished children. The country ranked 9 out of 107 countries in the Hunger Index.
Researchers said that an intensive study is required to gauge whether or not to improve the quality or quantity of meals provided or if extending the program beyond primary schools would be beneficial
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