The Ministry of Human
Resource Development has recently released additional set of guidelines
mandating schools to set up a School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden. Here is an
explainer on what this initiative is all about, what does it try to achieve
etc.

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme
(MDMS)
, is a flag ship scheme of Government of India’s Ministry of Human
Resource Development (MHRD) which aims at not only increasing the school
attendance but more importantly improve the nutritional levels among the
children. Since its inception as a centrally sponsored scheme in 1995, there
were multiple changes and additions made to improve on the effectiveness of the
scheme.

One such
initiative, which was implemented in a few states is the concept of ‘School
Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens’. The idea behind this is for the schools to
maintain a garden and grow plants that would supplement the nutritional
requirement of the food being served as part of MDMS.  

The MHRD has
released a set of guidelines recently with
respect to School Nutrition Gardens. The Ministry has further released additional set
of guidelines
on 15 October2019 to assist schools in States/UTs in setting up these
Nutrition Kitchen Gardens.

In this
explainer story, we look into how MHRD plans to utilize the concept of
Nutrition Gardens in schools to achieve multiple purposes, and the plans to ensure
larger community participation.

School
Nutrition Gardens to have multiple purposes

The initial
idea of School Nutrition Gardens (SNG) was to be an integral part of providing
nutrition to children by supplementing freshly grown vegetables to be served in
Mid-day meals. MHRD, has conceptualized to build upon this and expand the scope
of SNGs.   The guidelines document released by MHRD,
highlights three
objectives
for developing these nutrition gardens in the schools.

School Nutrition_PURPOSES

Hence, apart
from being a source of nutrition, this initiative is envisioned to be a
platform to aid children’s learning. The scope of learning is multi-fold. From
a practical perspective, the child can develop gardening skills and other
skills associated with the activity.

This also
creates a scope to engage in discussion and learning about the following.

  • Nutritional value of the vegetables
  • Names of different vegetables
  • Different concepts like – colour, shape, size, texture etc.
  • Importance of nutritional food and harmful effects of junk food etc.

The guidelines
document enlists various
benefits
(practical & educational) of having School nutrition gardens.

School Nutrition_benefits

Setting up and
maintenance of School Nutrition Gardens

The
specifications for setting up and maintaining a kitchen garden are basic and do
not need much investment. This is to ensure that maximum number of schools can
take part in this initiative.

Space

There are no
specific space requirements to set up a garden in school. A plot with minimal
dimensions (1m X 2m) can be used for growing sample plantation. Depending on
the availability of space, the respective school authority can decide on the
place which can be allotted for the kitchen garden.

Hence, schools
in both rural and urban locations can develop their own kitchen garden. In
places where there is a serious shortage of land, roof top gardens or
alternatives like wall climbers can be opted for.

Availability of
water and being shade free are few of the pre-requisites before finalizing
the land for garden.

School Nutrition_actions to take

Funding

For funding of the
School Nutrition Garden
, an amount of Rs. 5,000 can be used from ‘Flexi fund
component for Innovative Interventions’ under the MDMS. This amount can be used
for purchasing seeds, compost, equipment etc.

District
Magistrate would be heading the district level committee which is empowered to
implement the scheme. The committee would determine the prioritization and
allocation of funds with an average of Rs. 5000 per School Nutrition Garden.

Agriculture/horticulture
department can be approached to procure seeds/saplings. Any of the activities
like – levelling of the land, building the boundary wall etc. can be done
through the works under ‘Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee
act’ (MGNREGA).

School Nutrition_MNREGA

Maintenance and
Monitoring

Sense of
ownership by school children is an important aspect of maintaining School
Nutrition Garden. Schools can form Eco clubs or School Garden
Clubs
comprising of enthusiastic students. The principal/head teacher can
lead the club. Schools can seek support from interested members from community
and from experts who can assist the children.

If there is
enough space, each class can have a separate garden with the class being
responsible for the maintenance of the garden.  The school can from groups with each group
being assigned a garden plot to take care.

Different
responsibilities can be rotated among the groups, to ensure that the whole
school is involved with the maintenance of the garden. While the school can be
open to the involvement of others, care ought to be exercised that students
learn from this experience.

School Nutrition_teams and groups

Schools are
encouraged to upload relevant photos on MDMS portal on quarterly basis and also
share information about any best practices and progress with the stake holders.
Students can be taught to maintain records, taking stock etc.  which would provide them with practical
skills.

Allocating time
& undertaking activities

MHRD recommends around 2 hours
to be spent in a week for this activity. An hour can be designated as garden
time, wherein the students can spend in the garden with the activities. Another
hour in the week is advised to be class time, where in the teacher and students
can involve in lesson time. The activities in the class could include – organizing
work, setting up activities, observations, documentation etc.

School also
need to come up with a calendar which includes details like – season, timings
for different activities, planting, harvest etc.  The school can plan for planting various
vegetables as per – season, availability and requirement.

School Nutrition_MHRD Recommendations

Enlisting inter-departmental
and outside support

There are 706 Krishi
Vigyan Kendras
(KVKs) across the country, which work under Indian Council of
Agricultural Research (ICAR) and are under the jurisdiction of Agricultural
Technology Application Research Institutes (ATARI). These KVKs function as
knowledge and resource centers for agricultural technology at district level.
Schools can have scientists from KVKs to provide knowledge and technical
assistance in setting & maintenance of School Nutrition Gardens.

Parents and
families of the school children can be involved in the initiative. They can
volunteer for assistance in developing the garden. Furthermore, in cases where
there is not enough space at the school, parents’ permission can be sought for
children to develop a garden at their home.

Schools can
seek support from NGOs, Charities, Religious trusts, corporates etc. in form of
knowledge transfer, kind and monetary benefits to create and develop these
gardens.  

Simple
initiative which can be expanded across all the schools

So far 8 states have reported
data in respect to this initiative with Assam having the highest number of
schools with this initiative as of March 2018.

School Nutrition_Schools with kitchen gardens

While the
concept of Kitchen Gardens is not a new initiative and being followed by
schools in many parts, MHRD has come up with these new set of guidelines to
promote it at a bigger scale. Through this initiative, MHRD looks at promoting
the idea that a School Nutrition Garden can be set up without requiring a large
area and to promote innovative ways of working around the challenges in
developing a School Nutrition Garden.

Schools have
the opportunity to develop innovative ways of making the optimum utilization of
the resources and by engaging various partners. The most important target in
this new version to develop skill in children as well as to use this as a platform
to imbibe knowledge on various aspects.

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