There is “clear evidence of significant improvement” in the development of children given eggs as part of the midday meal, with girls in grade 8 gaining 71% more weight than their peers who were not given eggs. A study by the Government of Karnataka covered over 4,500 students in two districts.
The study noted that the introduction of eggs and to a lesser extent bananas resulted in an improvement in the body mass index (BMI) of both boys and girls. This contradicts the observations of another Karnataka government committee on National Education Policy, 2020, which said that serving of eggs and meat in the mid-day meal can lead to “lifestyle disorders”.
As part of a three-month-long study, between December 2020 and March 2021, on the impact of midday meals on children’s growth and nutrition, officials served eggs (and as an alternative to bananas) to students in Yadgir, a backward region. district, whereas the people of Gadag were provided regular vegetarian food with milk.
Noting that there is no such previous study on the impact of midday meals or any other supplemental nutrition program in India, the report said the findings underscore the need for additional protein and calories in all districts of Karnataka, particularly mainly in the welfare sector. It is one of the most backward in terms of socio-economic status and education.
The two districts selected were similar in terms of socio-demographic profiles, dietary diversity and food consumption patterns of the students. “Since there is no significant difference in these aspects, it is appropriate to make a comparison for the purpose of the study,” the report said.
It also states that bananas, for all their benefits, cannot be a substitute for eggs, and urges officials to explore alternative “protein-rich vegetarian items”.
A 15-member team from Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University, comprising food scientists, public health experts and economists, monitored changes in mean height, average weight and average BMI in two sets of children from Yadgir and Gadag districts, enrolled in 60 schools from classes 1 to 8.
Among the key findings listed in the final report are that overall, more than 91% of students had regular mid-day meals, and in Yadgir, over 98% consumed eggs, “overcoming fears of cultural or traditional barriers”. “Many people raised their voices. Like Tejaswini Ananthkumar, BJP’s Karnataka Vice President. The BJP leader recently said that serving eggs can be “deprecating for many vegetarian students”.
At present, eggs are served under the mid-day meal or PM nutrition scheme in seven districts of Karnataka, while a proposal to bring other districts under its ambit is pending with the BJP government in the state.
Weight: In each standard starting from Class 4, the boys of Yadgir gained 50%-60% (0.7 to 1.7 kg) more weight than the students of Gadag. Among the girls of Yadgir, 86.3% gained weight in the range of 0.9 to 3.6 kg, while in Gadag, 81.3% of the girls gained between 1.2-2.1 kg. “The weight of 8th-grade girls in Yadgir was 71 percent more than Gadag girls,” the report said.
Malnutrition: In Yadgir, the number of severely underweight girls has declined by 30% (18.9% to 13.4%), and the proportion of moderately malnourished girls has declined by 42%. “In contrast, Gadag district had only a marginal decrease (15%) in malnourished girls … the reduction in malnutrition among boys from Gadag did not show any significant trend.”
BMI: Among girls of Yadgir, BMI improved between 0.9, 0.8 and 1.1 in classes 6, 7 and 8 respectively and between 0.8, 0.7 and 1.2 in boys. In Gadag, there was an improvement of 0.1, 0.2 and -0.1 in girls in the respective categories and 0, -3 and -1 in the same age group. Similar patterns emerged in the lower primary grades. “These are clear indications of favoured improvement in BMI in memory school children of both sexes, which can be attributed to the addition of eggs/bananas,” the report said.
A total of 3,029 and 3,325 children were recruited for the study in Yadgir and Gadag, and the researchers recruited 2,192 and 2,469 children, respectively, after 100 days.
“The average weight and BMI gains in Yadgir are higher than those in Gadag, showing encouraging results of egg/banana addiction intervention in MDM (mid-day meal) and continuing for at least one more period and re-evaluating the benefits. is required. At least 100 eggs each year and after three eggs per week over one year,” it says.
A researcher associated with the study told The Indian Express: “The trends are indicative but very encouraging. There was extensive interaction with parents to identify food consumption patterns at the household level. Apart from the increase, the attendance of students in Yadgir also increased by 10%.
Currently, eggs are served at midday meals as part of “additional foods” in 13 states and three union territories, with states/UTs having chosen the tab. The frequency ranges from five days a week to once a month.
In Madhya Pradesh, the previous Congress government’s decision to add eggs to the menu of anganwadis was overturned by the BJP after coming to power in 2020.
In Karnataka, proposals to add eggs have been strongly opposed by Lingayats and Jain sages in the past.