It’s something of a given for most of us: eggs are an excellent source of animal protein for young girls and boys. They contain all essential nutrients, minus Vitamin C. Alas, most children in rural India rarely got a chance to eat an egg. Except now, thanks to the mid-day meal programme and ICDS.
Indeed, quite a few states have started serving eggs in schools and anganwadis. In Tamil Nadu, where mid-day meals date to the 1920s, schoolchildren now get an egg every day, along with sambar-rice. Ask children in Orissa what they get to eat at school, and their enthusiastic chorus is: “Eggs!” Served twice a week in the state’s schools, they’re seen as a special treat, given that children’s diets at home sorely lack in variety/nutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey, only 5 per cent of adult men and 3.5 per cent of adult women eat an egg every day.
Jharkhand recently joined the list of states where eggs have made it to school menus. In Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, unfortunately, powerful upper-caste lobbies have succeeded in keeping eggs out of mid-day meals. Unfortunate, because, it isn’t all that difficult to keep a vegetarian option (say, a banana) for children who do not want to eat eggs. Surely vegetarianism is about abstaining from certain food products, not about enforcing abstention on others! This shortsightedness apart, a lack or shortage of funds leads to eggs being dropped from school menus. It’s an investment option India should consider to reap healthy benefits for its coming generations: eggs at local schools and anganwadis.