The Bihar Post

Indian state starting kitchen gardens in 20,000 schools to improve children’s nutrition

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PATNA, INDIA: Thousands of schoolchildren enrolled in government-run schools in the Indian state of Bihar will be getting fresh, green vegetables in lunch every day to improve their nutrition level.

In a novel initiative aimed at improving nutrition level of children, the education department authorities in Bihar state have ordered for developing kitchen gardens in at least 20,000 schools out of total 70,000 and grow green vegetables and fruits with the help of children enrolled in the first phase. The entire farming will be organic and there will be no use of fertilizers.

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Authorities said they have already selected the schools where the kitchen gardens are to be started. According to them, the students will be told about the farming of as many as 75 vegetables and fruits the kitchen gardens.

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“At presently, green vegetables are purchased from the markets to serve the children in midday meal but once the kitchen gardens start functioning, the children will have fresh vegetables and fruits in their plates,” deputy director of midday meal scheme, Bihar, Jeevendra Jha told the media.

He said the kitchen garden would function with the help of teachers, students and all the school staffs and would work wonders in improving the nutrition level of children. Each school is being provided Rs5,000 to start the kitchen garden on their campus.

The officials got encouraged to start kitchen garden in so many schools in the state after the pilot project launched in eastern Bihar’s Purnia district turned out to be a huge success.

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The pilot project had been launched in 100 schools in Purnia district in 2016 and the experiments made on the campus gave high yields of organic vegetables such as tomato, pumpkin, brinjal, radish, mushrooms and various types of gourds.

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The midday meal scheme in Bihar has been running since 1995 with the objectives to provide hot cooked meal to every schoolchild to enhance attendance in schools and to protect the children from classroom hunger.

The scheme, however, has been mired in serious controversies of late with incidents of children landing in hospitals owing to little focus on hygiene becoming a routine affair.

Quite many children have also lost their lives owing to sheer carelessness on the part of school administration or corruption creeping into the scheme.

One such incident took place in July 2013 when at least 23 schoolchildren died and dozens others fell ill at a primary school at Dharmasati-Gandaman village in Saran district after being served midday meal contaminated with pesticide.

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