A Micro-study on the Impact of Governance
on the Post-COVID-19 Nutritional Security of Children through Mid-Day Meal Scheme
by Shanti Ashram’s International Centre for Child and Public Health &
Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore
Background: Since it was declared a worldwide pandemic in March, 2020 apart from becoming the ‘threat of the century’ to public health on a global scale, COVID-19 is being regarded as an indicator of inequity and deficiency of societal development. Above 276 million Indian children and youth were not going to school due to school closures. Education budgets decreased after COVID-19 began in 65 percent of low and lower-middle income countries in comparison to the 33 percent of high and upper-middle-income countries.
In India, there has been a 30 percent reduction in the execution of essential nutrition services including micro-nutrient supplementation, school meal programmes, de-worming drives, and nutrition education during COVID-19. India’s mid-day meal scheme was set up to ensure that hunger was not the reason preventing children from missing or skipping school. Therefore, to learn more about the impact of governance on the educational empowerment and nutritional security of rural children this micro-study was conducted.
Method: A cross-sectional study design was carried out in selected areas of the Coimbatore district in 10 government schools and 2 government-aided schools with 7,257 samples from pre-primary to higher-secondary classes aged between 6 to 18 years.
Results: There has been a definite increase in enrolment of children from private schools to government schools in all grades among boys and girls. The bigger difference in this reverse migration trend is maximum among girls (68.4 and 54.0) and least among boys (15.8 and 22) in both 2018 and 2020. There was a 17% increment in enrolment of girls (3490 from 2987) and a 19% in boys (3767 from 3177). There was an even more pronounced and significant increase of children (31%) taking the noon-meal scheme.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food availability and accessibility particularly in countries with severe lockdown measures due to which it became essential for governments to adopt a holistic, sustainable measures to tackle food insecurity in order to soften the blow on the most vulnerable socio-economic groups. As this is the first micro-study with a primary focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s nutritional security, a few recommendations are being put forward. Firstly, even though there is a substantial (60%) increase at noon-meal enrolment in government schools, there needs to be policy-supported budget allocation for the next or coming academic years, with special emphasis on the noon-meal scheme. An increase in the amount of protein from the current 12-20g is recommended. Providing any type of pulse sundals as a daily afternoon snack or as a part of the main menu is also advised, along with inclusion of a seasonal fruit to improve immunity through diet variation. In the wake of increase in price of commodities the monetary provision per day per child towards vegetables and groceries may be increased. Thus, in the course of a global crisis it becomes essential for governments to be involved in productive discussions, analyzing research, assessing existing measures and implementing better policies as the way to protect, preserve and promote the future generation.