School meals are a critical source of nutrition for millions of vulnerable children around the world. The onset of Covid-19 has led to school closures and interruptions in school feeding programs which has exposed many children to food insecurity.1 Globally, in 2020, an estimated 39 billion in-school meals have been missed during school closures by the 370 million children who were benefiting from school feeding programmes pre-crisis. India accounts for the largest number of beneficiaries (~100 million) globally.2 Given that India already had high rates of undernutrition among school age children before Covid-19 (35.2% children aged 5-9 years were underweight in 2016-18)3, it is critical that effective measures are taken up to address nutritional needs of school age children.
Where schools remain open, continuance of essential school health and nutrition services, promotion of WASH services, adherence of food safety standards and ensuring adequate nutrition content of meals are some key action points recommended. However, where schools remain closed, it is critical that supply and distribution processes maintain flexibility to changing conditions and also build upon existing safety net structures to cover vulnerable school children.4 Few countries have adopted approaches such as delivery of in-kind food transfers to children’s homes or including locally procured fresh foods in their food kits.5 In India, since elementary classes were closed, the school feeding program (Mid-day Meal scheme) provided Food Security Allowance consisting of only dry rations or a combination of dry ration plus cooking cost.6 States have used different approaches to improve reach of program during the pandemic including initiating cash transfers to parents of students or using other functionaries such as anganwadi workers for timely distribution.7 The PoshanCOVID19 monitoring page features many such state-level developments including any measures adopted by the respective state and central governments to alleviate the situation.
To understand the state of nutrition and food security in India, more accurate information is required but there are significant gaps in data. In this context, the PoshanCOVID19 initiative aims to aid policy and planning by maintaining a repository of information on child nutrition and maternal health and related topics in the context of COVID-19. The resources page is an archive for COVID-19 related resources on nutrition, early childhood development and food security. The monitoring page consolidates data to monitor the interactions between COVID-19 and nutrition which is presented in an easy-to-access and interpret format to enable evidence-based decisions.
- Zemrani, B., Gehri, M., Masserey, E., Knob, C., & Pellaton, R. (2021). A hidden side of the COVID-19 pandemic in children: the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20(1), 1-4.
- Borkowski, A., Correa, J. S. O., Bundy, D. A., Burbano, C., Hayashi, C., Lloyd-Evans, E., … & Reuge, N. (2021). COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom The Impact of School Closures on Children’s Nutrition.
- UNICEF. (N.D). School Age- Manifestation. Nutrition India Info.
- WFP., FAO., & UNICEF. (2020). Mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and nutrition of schoolchildren.
- FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO. (2021). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, FAO.
- WFP. (2021). School Meals in India – Tracking State Government Response to COVID-19 April- June 2021. UN World Food Programme, India.
- NB, D., Mishra, N. (2021). Pandemic and the Missing Midday Meals. Economic and Political Weekly, 56 (36)