Mid day meals are served to school children to enhance enrolment and nutritional status as part of the Government of India programme. NESFAS has worked with the schools to implement school gardens whereby the schools can get fresh vegetables to enhance the diets of the school meals. Earlier, the diversity of the mid day meals is only 3 to 4 food groups out of 10 food groups. Many a times, it is restricted to rice, dal and potato.
NESFAS has conducted campaigns where cooking demonstrations for cooks and local people have been conducted as part of the capacity building to enhance the inclusion of local food plants into the daily meals. In September 2019, a cooking competition of cooks from 5 villages was organised wherein the local cooks came up with a number of recipes. All these recipes used mainly local resources from the communities. From then on, NESFAS has encouraged the cooks to source food from the school gardens and local farmers as much as possible so as to access clean traditional food.
It was encouraging to see that in Dewlieh, a village located in the slopes of the hills (on the way to Sohra) and is not accessible by road, the Upper Primary School was serving mid day meals with five food groups; rice, dal mixed with potato and squash, Jali khleh (Wild green salad), Slaphan khleh (sweet potato leaves salad) and squash and tree tomato chutni. These vegetables were sourced from the school garden and local community. According to the FAO Minimum Dietary Diversity, a person needs to have at least 5 food groups in a day for a healthy diet. This school has reached the minimum dietary diversity in one meal. It has been found that such increase in diversity was also observed other schools in Nongtraw, Laitsohpliah & Umsawwar, Iewrynghep Mawlum & Umdum. One food group that was neglected but is now included is the green leafy vegetables. It is hoped that this diversity of food will go a long way to influence diets at households and improve the health of children.