Schoolchildren in Kadapa are being given ragi malt drink every day
Karnataka may be the country’s highest ragi producing State. But neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has stolen a march over Karnataka when it comes to using the highly nutrient ragi malt on a large scale to fight malnutrition among children.
Andhra Pradesh is providing vitamin enriched ragi malt drink to about 1.5 lakh students in 350 schools in Kadapa district every day while the mass supply of this enriched drink is yet to be taken up in Karnataka, according to an official.
Ragi malt has become popular in Andhra Pradesh mainly due to the efforts of the Kadapa-based Krishi Vigyana Kendra that has been trying the option of value addition through millets as an income-generating activity for farmers to help improve their living standards.
Nutritionist of the vigyana kendra T. Swarnalatha Devi, who is showcasing her products and work at the International Krishi Mela , here, told The Hindu that enriched ragi malt was being given to students in government hostels.
Dr. Swarnalatha, who has developed this enriched combination, says it has 9.6 grams of protein, 341 kilo calories of calcium, 8.8 milligrams of iron and 3.5 milligrams of B vitamins.
She said that the vigyana kendra supplies six tonnes of malt a month to the government for giving the health drink to schoolchildren. “We procure ragi and then get it processed through farmers who have been trained by us in value addition. We pay a premium of Rs. 100 per quintal as Andhra Pradesh is not a major grower of this crop,” she says.
In all, she has developed 45 value-added products, including the multigrain suji, through the vigyana kendra in the last three years.
Referring to Karnataka government’s scheme of providing milk to schoolchildren, Dr. Swarnalatha Devi suggested that instead of giving plain milk, vitamin-rich ragi malt should be mixed with it to fight malnutrition. “Enriched ragi malt is the best substitute for calcium. Being the country’s top ragi producing State, it will not be difficult for Karnataka to arrange for ragi malt for its schoolchildren,” she said.