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Fortified Mid Day Meals to fight malnutrition

In an effort to combat undernutrition in the country, the government is planning to provide fortified food products like wheat, rice, salt, and milk in schools’ midday meal and the supplementary nutrition scheme under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).Fortified foods are foods or food products to which extra nutrients such as  vitamins and minerals  have been added.

A committee of secretaries set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to recommend changes in the social sector, will be piloting the programme. “The recommendation that staple foods like milk, wheat, rice, edible oils and salt will be fortified and provided to schools and anganwadis was cleared by the PM,” a source said.According to this article, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been asked to revise norms for these products which will be fortified with iron, vitamin A and D. The target is to ensure complete coverage in the next two years.

According to a World Bank Report, “approximately 60 million children are underweight in India. In India, child malnutrition is mostly the result of high levels of exposure to infection and inappropriate infant and young child feeding and caring practices, and has its origins almost entirely during the first two to three years of life. However, the commonly-held assumption is that food insecurity is the primary or even sole cause of malnutrition. Consequently, the existing response to malnutrition in India has been skewed towards food-based interventions and has placed little emphasis on schemes addressing the other determinants of malnutrition. India’s main early child development intervention, the ICDS programme, has been sustained for about 30 years and has been successful in many ways. However, it has not yet succeeded in making a significant dent in child malnutrition. This is mostly due to the priority that the programme has placed on food supplementation rather than on nutrition and health education interventions, and because of the fact that the programme targets children mostly after the age of three when malnutrition has already set in. Transforming ICDS into an intervention that effectively combats undernutrition will yield huge benefits for India, both in terms of human development and economic returns, but will require substantial changes in the programme’s design and implementation. In particular, public investments in ICDS should be redirected towards the younger children (0-3 years) and the most vulnerable population segments in those states and districts where the prevalence of undernutrition is higher”.

To read this report, click here.

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