The midday meals program in Tamil Nadu, which was developed by the Justice Party in 1920 during the British regime and improved by succeeding state governments after Independence, took on a new dimension on Thursday with the introduction of a program to offer free breakfasts to students in government schools in classes I through V.
The Chief Minister’s Breakfast Program, available to students in Classes I through V in public schools, is not a gift; instead, it is the State government’s principal obligation and responsibility to guarantee that its children are fed. Chief Minister M.K. Stalin states, “such plans represent a government.”
In Madurai, a temple city 465 kilometers from Chennai, Chief Minister M. K. Stalin had breakfast with students before announcing the ambitious program. The Chief Minister’s Free Breakfast Scheme, seen as an offshoot of the midday meal program replicated throughout India and internationally, aims to address children’s nutritional deficiencies and ensure their attendance at school.
Up to 1.14 lakh children in 1,545 government-run schools in cities, towns, villages, and remote locations would benefit from the program in its initial phase. Of the 1,545 schools, 417 are located in urban areas, 163 in towns or district centers, 728 in rural areas, and 237 in remote or hilly regions. The relevant authorities have been instructed to offer hot breakfasts to schoolchildren by 8:30 am before their classes start. From Monday through Friday, students will receive upma, kichadi, or Pongal; on Fridays, Rava Kesari or semiya Kesari will be added to the menu. At least two days weekly will feature the local millets available in the area.
He was speaking at the Corporation Primary School Aathimoolam II in Simmakal, Madurai, for the book launch of “Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme.”
“Recently, I was interacting with kids in a program in Chennai, and I questioned a number of them about why they seemed exhausted and whether they had eaten. It resonated when they mentioned that they typically skip breakfast. Many administrators and educators agreed. The idea for the free breakfast program was ignited by this event. Every student will be able to join classrooms with a full stomach thanks to this plan,” he said.
Stalin promised in his address following the program’s introduction that the state’s resources would never prevent the implementation of the free breakfast program and that it would be gradually extended to other regions of the country. According to Stalin, the government will spend Rs 12.75 on breakfast for each student. “However, we do not classify this as an expense. We view this as a responsibility of the government. Furthermore, I see it as my responsibility to serve breakfast to kids so they can come to class full of energy.”
According to Stalin, research has shown that giving pupils a good breakfast improves their learning abilities while maintaining attendance. Similar programs are currently being implemented in the US, France, and other European nations.
The history of the breakfast scheme.
According to Mr. Stalin, who was tracing the history of feeding students at public schools, the effective breakfast program was implemented 102 years after P. Theagaraya Chetty, the then-president of the corporation (mayor) of the Justice Party, approved the proposal to provide tiffin to students of a Corporation School at Thousand Lights, Chennai.
Later, the program was improved by former chief ministers M. G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, and Jayalalithaa. They added a variety of meals and boiled eggs and extended the program’s coverage to anganwadis, respectively. The former chief minister K. Kamaraj introduced mid-day meals for government primary schools, followed by former chief ministers M. G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, and Jayalalitha. The book “Nootrandu Kanda Kalvi Puratchi” on the scheme was also released as part of the celebration.
While he pushed students to concentrate on their studies and work for higher places in life, Mr. Stalin urged officials to serve the children with the utmost care and treat them as their own. “Students should study hard without worrying since he was there to support them because education is the only asset that cannot be taken away from them,” he remarked.
Stalin stated that all expenditures made for the public’s education, health, and nutrition should be considered above reproach, likely with the controversy over “freebies” much on his mind. “Schemes like this are the face of this government, and these programs will have to be kept in mind while measuring the work of this government,” Stalin stated.
In the meantime, in Chennai, AIADMK leader and former minister for fisheries D. Jayakumar, commented on the introduction of the breakfast program. They noted that several electoral promises, such as the provision of Rs. 1,000 per month to women and a return to the previous pension plan for government employees, remained unfulfilled.