Why only 3 eggs a week? Organisations demand eggs on all 5 days in every Karnataka district

Karnataka government has planned to conduct a survey to find an alternative for eggs in the mid-day meal scheme following opposition from religious groups.

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Anu Parthiban | December 16, 2021 | 11:09 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Inspite of the fact that 94% students in the government and aided schools belong to communities that eat eggs, Karnataka is the only south Indian state that has not provided eggs as part of mid-day meal scheme, the members of different Civil Society Organisations said in an open letter to the Karnataka government.

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Saying that it is a much needed move to reduce malnutrition and promote students’ health, the organisations welcomed the Karnataka government’s decision to provide eggs for children in select districts of Karnataka. However, it said, “Eggs in midday are most welcome – but why only 3 eggs a week and only in 7 districts?”

The state government had introduced boiled eggs or bananas for students in seven districts - Ballari, Bidar, Kalaburagi, Koppal, Raichur, Vijayapura and Yadgir.

The group suggested in the open letter that eggs should be provided as part of the mid-day meal scheme on all school days to all children in Karnataka, who are used to consuming eggs.

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According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5th round (2019), most children in Karnataka do not reach their ideal height and weight. “Stunting (less height for age) of 35.4% and being underweight (less weight for age) of 32.9% are common in children even before they start their school life, and this is much more so in children from vulnerable communities,” it added.

They also raised their concern that these indicators would have worsened considerably due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

Eggs- The best option

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has planned to conduct a survey of students to find an alternative for eggs in the mid-day meal scheme following opposition from the religious groups to include egg in students’ diet, as per the Indian Express report.

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However, the open letter stated that the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) at least 83% of the state’s population does not have any cultural or religious objections to consuming eggs. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with budgets comparable to Karnataka provide eggs 5 times a week.

The benefit of this investment on the health and nutrition of children far outweighs the costs. Eggs are a locally available alternative with high Protein component with biological value of 100 as compared to 60-70 for pulses (daal) and a good source of all vitamins except C, the organisation said.

Karnataka would need an allocation of 370 crores for three eggs a week and 617 crores for 5 eggs a week for children from Classes 1 to 10.

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Measures to improve students’ health

The civil society organisations put forward the following demands to the Karnataka government.

  • Eggs should be mandatorily provided daily to the children in all the 31 districts of Karnataka. The contract for the supply should be given to local self-help or women’s groups.
  • Milk or milk powder should be provided to the school-children under the Ksheera Bhagya scheme daily.
  • Extra effort has to go to ensure that children in tribal belts, dalit children, children from OBC communities are not left out.
  • School-based kitchens should be set up in all schools. All centralized contracts should be cancelled immediately.
  • The focus should move from cereals/millets and fortification to a more diverse and nutrient dense diet.
  • Health check ups to be organized for all school children in the state immediately through the health department / PHCs.

Also read | West Bengal asks schools to provide cooked mid-day meals for Classes 1 to 8

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research -National Institute of Nutrition said, "Egg has good quality protein and many important nuritients. Children should be encouraged to consume whole eggs."

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