Tamil Nadu was the first to initiate a massive noon meal programme to children. Neither a child that is hungry, nor a child that is ill can be expected to learn. Realising this need the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme was launched in primary schools during 1962-63. Mid-Day Meal improves three areas: 1. School attendance, 2. Reduced dropouts, 3. A beneficial impact on children's nutrition.

The programme covers around 21.1 million children (beneficiaries) in class I to V standard by 1989-90 through government, local body and private-aided primary schools. Food grains at the rate of 3 Kgs minimum per child are provided per month (300 k cal and 8-12 grams of protein per day). The Central Government supplies the full requirement of food grains for the programme free of cost. For its implementation in rural areas, Panchayats and Nagarpalikas are also involved or setting up of necessary infrastructure for preparing cooked food. For this purpose NGOs, women's group and parent-teacher councils can be utilised. The total charges for cooking, supervision and kitchen are eligible for assistance under Poverty Alleviation Programme. In several states, supplementary feeding was assisted by food supplies from Cooperation for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) and World Food Programme (WFP). There are problems of administration and quality of food that have affected the programme outcomes.