Give cooked meals not packaged food at ‘anganwadis’: experts

April 22nd, 2008 - 8:52 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Criticizing the government for providing packaged food to children below six years of age in several states, doctors and activists Tuesday demanded that hot cooked meals can only save kids from malnourishment. Experts said that under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), of which ‘anganwadi’ (ay care centre in which poor children get free food) is a part, the government provides food worth Rs.2 per child per day.

“With such a low allocation, packaged food cannot provide required nutrition. We should go for hot cooked food from available local products,” said Arun Gupta, a member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).

Quoting the latest National Family Health Survey, Devika Singh of Mobile Creche, a non-government organisation, said that over the last eight years the malnutrition level in India has improved by just one percent.

“Our children need nutrition, care and support. Instead of going for a public private participation (PPP) to give packaged food, we need to involve more local people in anganwadis,” Singh told reporters.

Activists said several states like Uttar Pradseh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat were giving packaged food in Anganwadis and the children’s health condition is very poor.

“Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry are doing well because they are providing hot cooked meals every day,” said Sameer Garg, an activist from Chhattisgarh.

“Instead of giving packaged food twice or thrice a month to kids below six years of age, its better to give them dal and roti,” said Garg, who is a Supreme Court appointed monitor to oversee the ICDS programme implementation in Chhattisgarh.

Experts argued that the government needs to devise a proper policy to improve the malnourishment status of children and breast-feeding practice among women.

“We all know breast milk is best for child’s health but only 23 percent of women start breast feeding in the first hour of child birth,” said Gupta, a pediatrician by profession. “Breast-feeding in the first hour is very good for child’s nutrition and immunity,” he added.

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