One of the pioneers of the scheme is the Madras Presidency that started providing cooked meals to children in corporation schools in the Madras city in 1923. The programme was introduced in a large scale in 1960s under the Chief Ministership of K. Kamaraj. However, the first major thrust came in1982 when the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. M. G. Ramachandran, decided to universalise the scheme for all children in government schools in primary classes. Later the programme was expanded to cover all children up to class 10. Tamil Nadu’s mid-day meal programme is among the best known in the country.
There is an interesting story about how K. Kamaraj got the idea of a noon meal scheme. The spark is said to have occurred in a small village (now a town) called Cheranmahadevi in Tirunelveli District ofTamil Nadu. K Kamarajar was a very simple person who used to travel in his car (even without the red lamp at the top) and was not accustomed to convoys.
On one such journey, he had to stop at the railway intersection in Cheranmahadevi and got out of the car and waited. He saw a few boys busy with their cows and goats. The Chief Minister had asked one small boy, "What are you doing with this cows? Why didn't you go to school?" The boy immediately answered, "If I go to school, will you give me food to eat? I can learn only if I eat." The boy's retort sparked the entire process into establishing the mid-day meal programme.
Kerala has computerized the Mid-day Meal Scheme in schools. All the dealings are made online and the accounting become accurate.
Several other states of India also have had mid-day meal programmes. The most notable among them is Gujarat that has had it since the late 1980s. Kerala started providing cooked meals in schools since 1995 and so did Madhya Pradesh and Orissa in small pockets. On November 28, 2001 the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark direction, which made it obligatory for the government to provide cooked meals to all children in all government and government assisted primary schools. The direction was resisted vigorously by State governments initially, but the programme has become almost universal by 2005.