Assessing the Impact of Public-Private Funded Midday Meal Programs on the Educational Attainment and Well-being of School Children in Uttar Pradesh, India
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The provision of meals at schools is considered to have the potential to enhance human dignity and facilitate equitable access to students from low socio-economic backgrounds, low social status (including Caste) and poor households. Using students and teachers from public schools in Utter Pradesh also known to be India’s most populous and poorest state as it’s as its unit of analysis, the paper examines the impact on International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) led Midday Meal (MDM) School Feeding program in India on educational access, performance, participation, and wellbeing. The study sought to evaluate the implementation of the midday meal (MDM) program led by an INGO in Lucknow, Utter Pradesh, and India to ascertain if the strategic program implementation protocols also ensure social inclusion and held address various forms of discrimination commonly reported in the literature. The study revealed that students were satisfied with most of the implementation of the program, serving and food satisfaction indicators. Nevertheless, we argue that the implantation process could benefit from a more integrated inter-agency coordination so as to address concerns regarding at-risk children and improve sanitation and health facilities that are not directly associated with the MDM program. The study concludes that INGOs led MDM programs could serve as a model for inclusive and non-discriminatory school feeding system where all children, irrespective of their social, economic, religious and family backgrounds will equally benefit with dignity. Such an approach, we argue, could also enhance social equity, youth development and the attainment of the SDG targets in India.