The Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the National School Meal Policy 2019, aiming to bring all the government primary schools under the midday-meal programme by 2023.
The approval came at a cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair at her office.
“Initially, the midday-meal programme will be introduced at schools in char, coastal and haor and other backward areas of the country,” said Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam while briefing reporters at the Secretariat after the cabinet meeting.
The school meal is expected to ensure minimum 30 percent of calories needed for a student each day, Shafiul Alam said adding that the meal will be provided to the students-- aged 3-12-- of preprimary and primary schools.
He said the meal will contain at least four items out of 10 selected food baskets to ensure food diversity.
As per the policy, Shafiul Alam said, the government can form a national school meal authority under the Primary and Mass Education Ministry to implement the school-meal programme.
The government can also form a school meal advisory committee to evaluate the programme and provide suggestions in this regard, the Cabinet Secretary added.
Additional Secretary to Primary and Mass Education Ministry Md Gias Uddin Ahmed said now midday meals are provided in 15,349 schools of 104 upazilas across the country under a pilot programme.
Of those, cooked foods are given in the schools of three upazilas, including Bamna of Barguna and Islampur of Jamalpur, while biscuits are provided in the schools of the rest upazilas.
The government finances the school-meal programme in 93 upazilas, while WFP sponsors that in the remaining upazilas, he said.
Now some 30 lakh students are getting meal under the current programme that will expire in December 2020, Gias Uddin said adding that the budget for the meal is Tk 474 crore in the current fiscal year.
The official said there are some 66,000 government primary schools in the country with about 1.40 crore students.
Gias Uddin said they estimated that some Tk 2,835 crore will be required annually for providing biscuits to all the schools, while Tk 5,560.80 crore for providing cooked food for five days (Saturday-Wednesday and biscuit for one day (Thursday) every week.
An amount of Tk 7,475 crore will be required for providing biscuit, egg, banana and bread in every meal.
“We’ll exercise all the modalities considering places,” he said.
The additional secretary said a study showed that the attendance rate in schools increases while the dropout rate declines significantly in the case of providing cooked food.