A few images from a government school in Uttar Pradesh have gone viral on social media with the claim that the students are receiving healthy, wholesome food as part of the government's mid-day meal programme, a national initiative that was started in 1995 with the goal of enhancing children's nutritional status.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) member Sadhvi Prachi shared the viral photo with the caption, " उत्तर प्रदेश के सरकारी स्कूल का मिड डे मील ❤अगर दिल्ली के किसी विद्यालय में ऐसा होता तो अंतराष्ट्रीय अखबारों में सुर्खियां बनाई जाती।"
English Translation: [Mid Day Meal of Government School of Uttar Pradesh. Had this happened in any school in Delhi, headlines would have been made in international newspapers]
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Arun Yadav also shared the viral image with the caption, " उत्तर प्रदेश के सरकारी स्कूल का मिड डे मील ❤अगर दिल्ली के किसी विद्यालय में ऐसा होता तो अंतराष्ट्रीय अखबारों में सुर्खियां बनाई जाती.. "
English Translation: [ Mid Day Meal of Government School of Uttar Pradesh.Had this happened in any school in Delhi, headlines would have been made in international newspapers]
This photo was also shared by Fatehpur Sikri Lok Sabha member of the Parliament Rajkumar Chahar with the caption, " माननीय मुख्यमंत्री श्री @myogiadityanath जी के नेतृत्व में उत्तर प्रदेश कुछ यूँ बदला है।ये है यूपी के सरकारी स्कूल का मिड डे मील"
English Translation:[ Under the leadership of Hon'ble Chief Minister Shri @myogiadityanath ji, something has changed in Uttar Pradesh.This is the mid day meal of a government school in UP ]
We used Google's keyword search to learn more about the picture's specifics. This led us to a tweet from Amit, the gram pradhan of the village of Malakpura in the Jalaun region of Uttar Pradesh. He posted the images on August 31 and included the phrases "add-on mid-day lunch" and "tithi bhojan" in the caption.
We contacted Amit to understand whether this was the food provided to the children regularly under the mid-day meal scheme, as claimed or was it a special occasion.
Amit said, "This meal was provided to the students under the 'add-on mid-day meal' concept, which has been implemented by the panchayat of Malakpura village in Uttar Pradesh."
Explaining it in detail, he said, "Back in December-January, the students expressed their wish to eat good food. We asked them what did they mean and said they would like to have paneer etc. So we decided to get some special food for them once the school reopened in February. The students enjoyed it so much that we made it a regular feature and started giving them food under this concept."
"We called it an 'add-on mid-day meal' because there are a few limitations to the mid-day meal scheme. One can't make any changes or replace the menu, but this 'add-on' concept gave us the liberty to make changes."
On Amit's Facebook page, we discovered prior posts where kids were pictured in the same way. A picture with the words "Tithi Bhojan" written on a board was one common element.
On being questioned about that, Amit mentioned that during his research, he read about the concept of 'Tithi Bhojan,' which was first started by the Gujarat state government and later recognised by the central government. Under this, on any special occasion, anyone can feed the children of government schools.
"After May, we implemented this concept in our panchayat to give it a more legal structure," he said and added that while the basic infrastructure – kitchen and appliances – is provided by the government, the food items for the meal provided to the students under 'Tithi Bhojan' or 'add-on mid-day meal' is provided by the community or an individual.
The picture that is now viral is also from a 'Tithi Bhojan.' In one of the pictures posted by Amit, the students can be seen holding a board that reads, 'Happy birthday, Saurav bhaiya.'
We also checked into the specifics of the UP school lunch programme and the food that is served to kids there, but we couldn't find any mention of "paneer," "puri," or even ice cream on the menu.
It is obvious that the food supplied to the kids was for a special occasion and isn't something they typically had. While "Tithi Bhojan" is an initiative to provide meals to children, acknowledged by the federal government and several state governments, the programme is voluntary to promote community involvement and improve children's nutritional health.
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