You must know: MK Stalin's breakfast scheme and the history of TN's championing food programme!

On the occasion of late Dravidian stalwart and social reformer CN Annadurai's 114th birth anniversary, Tamil Nadu has gone an extra mile by adding a significant push to the already championing food programme in the state. It is unequivocally proven that Tamil Nadu is leading the nation through such pioneering initiatives that concentrate on children's health and education, which will result in the upliftment of their communities. 

On Thursday- September 15, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin scripted a history of enhancing the food programme for the students who study in the state-run schools. In what has become a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Chief Minister launched the breakfast scheme, which will offer free breakfast for the government school students from classes 1 to 5 across the state. The scheme, which received wider attention, has got a greater commendation from activists and educationalists as it will serve its purpose in several ways.

From ensuring nutritious meals, and offering food free of cost, to bringing more students towards the stream of education, the breakfast scheme is a remarkable antidote of the state government in addressing the burden of distressing families across the state. Chief Minister MK Stalin launched the breakfast scheme at an event in Madurai and he visited a government school where he served food to the students and joined them for the breakfast. 

He was accompanied by several ministers and officials as the entire state watched what has become a huge milestone for the state in its decades-long food programme for the students. Since the breakfast scheme is a pilot project, it will be rolled out in thousands of schools initially before getting gradually enhanced. The scheme will be benefitting as many as 1.4 lakh students from 1,545 schools. 

The students from Classes 1 to 5 in these selected schools will get free breakfast at their schools on the working days and they will be served with a nutritious recipe. The breakfast will be prepared with millets available in the region and will be provided to the students at least two days per week based on the menu while they will be offered dishes like Pongal and Khichdi during the remaining days. 

According to reports, the schools can choose from the menu and frame their own package for five days a week as per the students' health and requirement. On Fridays, apart from the five days, students will be given a sweet Rava or semiya Kesari with breakfast. As the state has turned the heads of the nation, the government is taking efforts that the scheme will be successful and will serve its purpose. 

The government has asked district administrations across the state to ensure that the scheme is launched without any flaws and to ensure that it reaches the beneficiaries. In the first phase, 417 schools located in municipal corporations, 163 schools in municipalities, 728 schools in village panchayats, and 237 schools in interior villages and hilly areas will be covered under the scheme at a cost of Rs 34 crores.  

Under the free breakfast scheme, every student will be provided with a cooked meal of 150-500 grams with vegetables. At least 43,600 students studying in municipal corporation schools, 17,400 students in schools in the municipalities, 42,800 students in village panchayat limits and more than 10,100 students in remote and hilly areas will be getting benefitted from the scheme. 

For a state like Tamil Nadu that is known for social measures, this scheme is another pat on its back and it would play a vital role in curbing the health and educational deficiencies of the children. Several social activists and educationalists are praising the scheme and the scheme has sparked hope across the state that it would improve the literacy rate, and enrolment rate, and would reduce the dropouts in schools. The activists believe that the scheme would be extended all across the state soon and that the students of other classes should also get included.

What Chief Minister MK Stalin had to say about the scheme? 

During his address, the Chief Minister expressed a tone that he is more concerned that the students should get hunger-free education and that their hunger crisis should not restrict their studies. Addressing the event, he said, "I have launched this scheme to ensure that the students who come to the school shouldn't study with hunger. The breakfast will be provided to the students with extra care than what they get at their homes. Education is a right that we fought for and it is the only asset that no one can take away from you." 

He asked the students to concentrate only on education and that this government is working to serve their needs. He instructed the students don't leave their education at any cost and he assured them that he will not let students get away from their education. He further said, "This breakfast scheme will stand forever in history and the government's motive is to mitigate the hunger crisis despite facing financial burdens. This scheme is not an expenditure for the government but it is a duty and I think it's my responsibility." 

The history of food programme in Tamil Nadu 

Tamil Nadu has a rich history of offering free food to students for decades with the motive of increasing their literacy rate and uplifting their communities. Despite the political differences, several leaders have left their contributions in introducing and improving such a food programme that was later adopted by many states across India. Undeniably, this historical social measure has attracted global attention for its deep-rooted establishment.

Tamil Nadu is championing in food programme which will now cover the free breakfast scheme. It all began with Midday Meal Scheme and Tamil Nadu was the first to launch the scheme to the students in post-independent India. It was pioneered by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu K Kamaraj in the early 1960s with the motive of bringing the students to the school. What Tamil Nadu launched is now the largest of its kind in the world. 

File photo: The then Chief Minister K Kamaraj serving gruel at a school at Katpadi in 1954, ahead of introducting free meals across the state


Kamaraj dreamt of increasing the number of children coming to school after which the scheme was rolled out. It was first introduced in Chennai and later got extended to all the districts in Tamil Nadu. It was a success and thanks to K Kamaraj's successors who kept and enhanced the scheme as per the requirements. Notably, former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran (MGR) was a vital torchbearer of the programme and changed the Midday Meal Scheme to Nutritious Food Scheme in 1982. This scheme benefitted 68 lakh children who were suffering from malnutrition. 

The Nutritious Food Scheme gave employment opportunities to one lakh women and the government has incurred the cost of implementing the scheme. Later, in 1989, the government decided to serve eggs to the students once a fortnight. The upcoming governments have revamped the scheme and now, the government is providing ten eggs per month for every student.

Big transformation: The then Chief Minister MGR serving food for school students in Trichy in 1982 after launching the Nutritious Meal Scheme in Tamil Nadu


The Midday Meal Scheme has become a nationwide food programme and in 2002, the scheme was implemented in all of the states under the orders of the Supreme Court. Several pieces of research found that the Midday Meal scheme, launched by Tamil Nadu, have remarkably increased the number of students coming to school and as the pioneer, the state, in MK Stalin's era and on Dravidian stalwart Annadurai's birth anniversary, has now taken a major leap through the free breakfast scheme.