Shillong: More than 18 years after it was rolled out in Meghalaya, the mid-day meal scheme has failed to keep children in schools or provide dietary nutrition - the two objectives of the centrally-sponsored scheme.
A survey of the schools in the state where the scheme was launched in 1995 discovered that over 50 per cent children still suffered from stunted growth and that the food served is mostly deficient in vitamins and micro-nutrients.
Children covered under the scheme have remained underweight and suffer from severe stunted growth, the survey conducted by a special team of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD)revealed.
The study showed that the overall prevalence of stunted growth among school children was 59 per cent compared to the national average of 48 per cent.
The proportion is higher in the district of East Khasi Hills (65.3 per cent) and Ri-Bhoi district (49.1per cent).
The problem is higher among girls as compared to boys in at least two districts of East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi.
The survey report also rapped the state government for the fact that over 29 per cent of the toilets in the schools are non-functional.
The survey also finds that only rice is served to the children.
The MHRD team, which comprised experts from the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, suggested that alternate rice and wheat preparations be included in the menu to provide a wholesome cereal meal.
The MHRD team also suggested that consumption of micro-nutrients-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits be included in the menu.
The report noted that there were non-functional toilets in over 3,000 schools out of 8825 schools where toilets were constructed in the last three years.