I believe Hunger is probably the biggest disease in the world. Some will frown on this idea countering it by saying that No! It’s not a disease. It is not caused by some virus or bacteria. I agree that bacteria or virus is not the cause of hunger but the repercussions of hunger are probably worse than a disease. Unlike disease which affects only an individual, hunger affects the whole nation in a long run. Hunger kills aspirations. Hunger force children to leave their school and get exploited at an early age. The innocence is lost when they should be playing with toys and in most of the cases the children die due to inadequate food and nutrition. Inspite of the knowing that millions of children die in Africa and other under-developed nations due to hunger not much money and attention is being spent on providing adequate food to these food deprived nations.
One of the most common reasons you come across from the children working on construction sites or small food joints for leaving their studies is the need to feed their family. The reason they stopped going to school is to provide an additional earning hand for the family.
Though child labor is banned still one of the challenges which the government of India faced was how to bring the new generation to the school. Even the parents who were initially sending their children to school were forcing their children to dropout thus increasing the dropout rate. They were thinking what should be the trigger that can prompt people to send their young ones to the schools? The Midday meal was the answer to these questions. This initiative rightly hit the psychology of the parents. The idea of their children getting a full meal if they go to school was the first step towards pushing the young children to school.
The tiny hands which were cleaning dirty plates on some roadside Dhabas or were part of rag picking or begging activity are now holding chalks and pencils. One can imagine if everybody knows how to read and write how good it will be. Education gives you the ability to reason, to understand right and wrong and thus a more compassionate person who cannot be misguided to do harm to the society.
I was part of the CSR initiative for a short while in my last organization where we used to teach primary students English and Maths in a municipal school. I could feel the difference of the midday meal there and how students were excited to come to school. There I first time came across Akshaya Patra Foundation. They served the midday meal there. Akshaya Patra a non-profit organization runs school lunch programme across India. Their vision of ‘“No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger’ is clearly laid out to which they constantly work for with all their efforts. If analyzed properly one can see that the midday meal concept has addressed the issue of education, hunger and malnutrition in an effective manner. Just by addressing the issue of hunger the various interrelated issues were addressed in a short span. Though there is a long way to go this initiative was able to save the childhood of many childrens and one would be able to see the benefits of the same in the near future.