Read here | Credit: Edex Live
Read here | Credit: Edex Live

Pilot Millet bar to tackle malnutrition among anganwadi children in Varanasi

As 2023 is the International Year of Millets, the prime minister started a 'millet' intervention in the constituency. The millet bars were introduced in three blocks after a proper study

A pilot initiative to distribute 'millet bars' to 50,000 children in 1,364 anganwadis in three blocks of Varanasi has given a further boost to the government's efforts to address child malnutrition, said a PTI report.

The millet-bar initiative, which the Varanasi administration is implementing through Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF) — a corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of Vedanta — in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency comes in the backdrop of the International Year of Millets celebrated in 2023.

Currently, there are a total of 3,914 anganwadi centres spread across nine blocks in Varanasi district.

About the initiative

The millet bar initiative was piloted in only 1,364 anganwadi centres in three blocks — Arajiline, Kashi Vidyapith, and Sewapuri — including 264 modernised anganwadis called Nand Ghar by AAF, added PTI.

This initiative supplements the government's nutrition programme undertaken through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, under which usually cooked meals are served to anganwadi children, and pregnant and lactating mothers.

"We are undertaking many initiatives to address child malnutrition in the district. Distribution of millet bars in anganwadis along with Vedanta in three blocks is one such and has definitely helped to improve the health of children and increased attendance," Varanasi district Chief Development Officer Himanshu Nagpal told PTI.

As 2023 is the International Year of Millets, the prime minister started a millet intervention in the constituency.

The millet bars were introduced in three blocks after a proper study, he said.

A 20-gram millet bar, containing peanuts, rice syrup, ragi, jowar crispies, and watermelon seeds in three flavours is being distributed daily to children aged three to six years since March this year.

"It has helped bring down the number of children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) in three blocks," he said.

In Varanasi district, children with SAM has come down to 0.6 per cent and MAM to 2 per cent in November 2023, while SAM stood at 7.3 per cent and MAM at 14 per cent as per the 2019 National Family Health Survey-5, he said.

Further, Nagpal said in the remaining five blocks, the local administration has started from last month distribution of ragi ladoo for one year under the CSR projects of other private companies.

In the city area under the municipal corporation, dairy cooperative firm Amul is also supplementing with a millet kit, PTI further added.

The millet-bar initiative supplemented the government's effort to address child malnutrition in anganwadis at a time when the state government had discontinued cooked meals under the ICDS scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic and began distributing 'take home dry ration' to the beneficiaries instead.

The state government has reintroduced cooked hot meals in anganwadi centres from November.

Happy children
"The distribution of one millet bar daily has brought a positive change in children. It has not only improved their nutrition level but also enhanced their attendance," Laldev Maurya (50), an anganwadi worker at Nand Ghar Centre in Harsos village, said.

Bindu Patel (30), a mother of three children, is happy to see her four-year-old daughter gain weight in the last few months.

AAF spokesperson and Non-Executive Director at Vedanta Priya Agarwal Hebbar said the purpose of starting the pilot initiative was to ensure that all children, especially in the malnourished categories, have access to good nutrition to boost their growth.

In three blocks where millet bars were introduced, the number of children with SAM has come down to five per 1,000 children in November from 15 per 1,000 children in 1,364 anganwadis, according to the Poshan Tracker of the Union Women and Child Development Ministry.

Similarly, the number of children with MAM has come down to 30 per 1,000 children in November from 47 per 1,000 children in March in the centres covered under the pilot project.

Thus, the reduction in SAM and MAM is 61.58 per cent and 35.41 per cent, respectively, across the 1,364 angawandis aided by the introduction of multi millet bar, said PTI.

That apart, the number of children enrolled in 1,364 anganwadi centres, including Nand Ghar, has also increased to 1.15 lakh in November from 1.07 lakh in March this year, as per the official data.

"We will also try to continue the millet bar distribution in three blocks for another year. We are in touch with AAF," Nagpal said.

Anganwadis are government-funded child and mother care development centres in India that started in 1975.

They were started as part of the government's flagship ICDS and are run by grassroots-level workers who are responsible for feeding children as well as pregnant women.

Besides the millet bar initiative, AAF has also modernised 1,421 anganwadis in Varanasi under its Nand Ghar project.

It is in the process of modernising another 57 in the district.

Besides Varanasi, AAF is modernising anganwadis in Amethi, Philibit, Raibareli and Hapur districts. Launched in 2016, AAF is implementing the Nand Ghar project in Uttar Pradesh and 13 other states, PTI added.

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