A comparative study of mid-day meal beneficiaries and private school attendees
Background: India is undergoing a rapid demographic transition accompanied by an epidemiologic and nutritional transition. The nutritional status of school-going children who form a major section of the population, can give an indication of the changing trends in nutritional profile of the population. According to Planning Commission report, 2010, Mid Day Meal (MDM) Program has been successful in addressing classroom hunger and the objective of social equity in government school attendees. Aims & Objectives: To study the pattern of school lunch intake and nutritional status in private and government school-going children of district Dehradun. Material & Methods: This was an observational cross-sectional study in district Dehradun in government and private schools, with participants from class 1 to 12. A 24-hour dietary recall was done to measure caloric intake. Height and weight were measured using Microtoise (accuracy 0.1cm) and digital weighing machine (Omron Model: HN286, accuracy 100 gm). Statistical analysis was done using SPSS, version 22. Nutritional status was classified using WHO cut-offs and analyzed using AnthroPlus Software. Student t-test was used to compare caloric intake of subgroups. Association between nutritional status and other variables was assessed using Chi-squared test. Results: Using WHO cut-offs, the proportion of thin children was 5.4% in private school and 21.5% in MDM beneficiaries of government schools. The proportion of children who were overweight was 27.7% in private schools and 3.6% in government schools (p<.0.05). The caloric content of school lunch was 271 Kcal in private school attendees and 375 Kcal in MDM beneficiaries. Proportion of children who skipped school lunch increased as they progressed in higher classes, and this proportion was greater in students of government schools beyond class VIII. Conclusion: The study highlights the need for more large scale nutritional surveys with school lunch in focus.