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PM POSHAN: Nurturing Health and Education Through Nutritional Empowerment

PM POSHAN scheme benefits the nutritional and educational needs of millions of children across the nation

Saurabh Shukla
PM POSHAN: Nurturing Health and Education Through Nutritional Empowerment (Photo Source: @PMPoshanjk/X)
PM POSHAN: Nurturing Health and Education Through Nutritional Empowerment (Photo Source: @PMPoshanjk/X)

The Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN), formerly known as the National Program of Mid-Day Meal in Schools, is a cornerstone of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA). This centrally sponsored scheme aims to tackle two critical issues plaguing India's children: hunger and educational access. By enhancing the nutritional status of children in eligible schools, PM POSHAN strives to create a healthier and more conducive learning environment.

An Overview

In a significant move, the Union Cabinet approved the PM POSHAN scheme in September 2021. This initiative, with a staggering financial outlay of Rs 1.31 trillion, supersedes the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, focusing on providing one hot cooked meal in Government and Government-aided schools for a duration of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26).

PM POSHAN: Objective

The primary objectives of PM POSHAN are multi-faceted, addressing both nutritional deficiencies and educational barriers:

  • Improving Nutritional Status: Enhancing the nutritional intake of children in Government and Government-aided schools to ensure their overall well-being.

  • Boosting School Attendance: Encouraging regular attendance among economically disadvantaged children by providing them with nutritious meals, thereby aiding in their concentration and participation in classroom activities.

  • Support in Disaster-Affected Areas: Offering nutritional support during summer vacations to children in drought-affected and disaster-prone regions, ensuring continuity in their dietary needs.

Some Key Features

  • Expanded Coverage: The scheme encompasses primary (1-5) and upper primary (6-8) schoolchildren, ensuring a minimum of 700 calories per day. Moreover, it extends to children in the 3-5 age group attending pre-primary classes.

  • Nutritional Gardens: Emphasizing the utilization of locally grown nutritional food items from "school nutrition gardens," fostering local economic growth, and involving Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) in implementation.

  • Supplementary Nutrition: Provision for supplementary nutrition in aspirational districts and areas with a high prevalence of anemia, with flexibility in adding components like milk or eggs to the menu without incurring additional costs.

  • Tithi Bhojan Concept: Encouraging community participation through Tithi Bhojan, where special food is provided to children on occasions and festivals.

  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT): Implementation of DBT to ensure efficient compensation to cooks and helpers, minimizing leakages in fund distribution.

  • Nutrition Expert Appointment: Appointment of nutrition experts in each school to monitor health aspects like Body Mass Index (BMI) and hemoglobin levels.

  • Social Audit: Mandating a social audit of the scheme in each state to evaluate implementation effectiveness.

Financial Allocation of the Scheme 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has assigned a substantial budget of ₹ 130794.90 crore for PM POSHAN, spanning the five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26. This funding, comprising contributions from both Central and State Governments, underlines the scheme's significance in addressing child nutrition on a national scale.

Challenges Ahead 

While PM POSHAN holds great potential in addressing child nutrition and educational access, several challenges need to be navigated for its successful implementation:

  • Logistical Challenges: Ensuring timely delivery of nutritious meals to a vast number of schools across diverse geographical locations poses logistical hurdles, especially in remote and rural areas with limited infrastructure.

  • Quality Control: Maintaining consistent quality standards for the meals provided, including nutritional content and hygiene, is essential but can be challenging, particularly in areas with limited resources and capacity.

  • Financial Sustainability: Despite the substantial budget allocation, sustaining the scheme's operations over the long term and ensuring adequate funding for supplementary nutrition and other components may pose financial challenges, especially within competing priorities.

  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Effective monitoring mechanisms are crucial to track the scheme's progress, identify bottlenecks, and ensure accountability. However, establishing robust monitoring and evaluation systems at both central and local levels can be resource-intensive and complex.

  • Community Engagement: While initiatives like the Tithi Bhojan concept promote community participation, fostering sustained engagement and ownership among local communities may require extensive awareness campaigns and capacity-building efforts.

  • Cultural Sensitivity: Promoting dietary diversity and incorporating local culinary traditions while adhering to nutritional guidelines necessitates cultural sensitivity and adaptation, which may vary across regions and communities.

  • Institutional Coordination: Coordinating efforts across various government departments, educational institutions, and community organizations to implement the scheme effectively requires strong institutional coordination and collaboration, which may face bureaucratic challenges.

  • Addressing Underlying Causes: Tackling child malnutrition requires addressing underlying socio-economic factors such as poverty, inadequate healthcare, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation. While PM POSHAN aims to mitigate these issues indirectly through nutrition interventions, comprehensive solutions require multi-sectoral approaches and long-term investments.

  • Climate and Environmental Factors: Droughts, floods, and other climate-related challenges can disrupt agricultural production and food supply chains, affecting the availability and affordability of nutritious food items, especially in vulnerable regions.

  • Data Management: Accurate and timely data collection, analysis, and reporting are essential for informed decision-making and program adjustments. However, challenges in data collection methods, reliability, and accessibility may hinder effective planning and evaluation of the scheme's impact.

Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from policymakers, implementers, and stakeholders at all levels to ensure the PM POSHAN scheme fulfills its objectives and positively impacts the nutritional status and educational outcomes of children across India.

Enhancements and Future Prospects

  • Expansion to Pre-Primary Education: PM POSHAN will now extend its benefits to pre-primary or Balvatikas in Government and Government-aided primary schools, broadening its reach to encompass younger children.

  • Promotion of Tithi Bhojan: The concept of Tithi Bhojan will be extensively encouraged, fostering community engagement and cultural traditions.

  • School Nutrition Gardens: School Nutrition Gardens, aimed at providing hands-on gardening experience to children while supplementing their diet with fresh produce, will receive increased emphasis.

  • Social Audit Mandate: Making social audits mandatory across all districts to ensure transparency and accountability in scheme implementation.

  • Supplementary Nutrition Provision: Special provisions for aspirational districts and areas with high rates of anemia, catering to specific nutritional needs.

  • Culinary Innovation and Local Empowerment: Encouragement of cooking competitions at various levels to promote ethnic cuisine and utilization of locally available ingredients, aligning with the 'Vocal for Local' initiative.

  • Field Visits and Monitoring: Facilitation of field visits for progress monitoring by students and trainee teachers to foster a culture of accountability and learning.

With its holistic approach encompassing dietary supplementation, community engagement, and innovation, PM POSHAN holds the promise of nurturing healthier and brighter futures for millions of children across the nation. However, effective implementation, continuous monitoring, and stakeholder engagement remain imperative to realizing the scheme's full potential and ensuring the well-being of the forthcoming generations.

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