Preparation of weaning food not consistent; mix not easily digestible
For the past few years, young children have been given weaning food through Integrated Child Development Scheme to help improve their nutrition. These weaning supplements are provided in the form of powder that is rolled into a ‘laddoo’ and given to children. Unfortunately, despite being provided these supplements, many children in Puducherry refuse to eat the food.
In both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the lactating mothers and young children are given this weaning supplement, which is packed in plastic bags and given to the mothers once every 15 days. Between the State and the Union Territory, however, there is a world of difference.
In Puducherry, the weaning supplement is supplied through the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas Scheme, where individuals prepare the supplement given to anganwadis. Since there is no central kitchen to prepare these foods, there is very little consistency, former Coordinator for the Food and Nutrition Board Thirunavukkarasu said.
In Villupuram, however, all the weaning food is packaged under one roof at the Weaning Food Society in Chinna Salem. This ensures a certain amount of consistency in the packaging, he said.
The problem in Puducherry, however, is that many children that come to the anganwadi centres refuse to eat the weaning supplement that is provided, since it is lumpy. As a result, much of the food is wasted, one of the anganwadi workers, Saraswati, said. The Tamil Nadu anganwadi workers, however, did not seem to indicate that this was a problem.
“The children here are given 130 grams of the powder mixed with water as a laddoo at the centre itself. It is usually given as two or three laddoos, so the children do not struggle to eat it,” Uma a worker said.
The main difference between the two weaning supplements is the addition of ‘amylase’. With amylase, the amount of water is reduced and the children find it easier to digest the food, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said.
In terms of nutritional values, however, the Puducherry version has more protein and more calories, which on paper seems ideal. In Tamil Nadu, the weaning food mix contains amylase. It has 52 per cent wheat and maize, 5 per cent amylase, 12 per cent roasted Bengal gram, 30 per cent jaggery and one per cent pre-mix which contains vitamins and minerals.
In Puducherry, on the other hand, there is no amylase added, and there is 40 per cent wheat, five per cent ragi, 25 per cent dried gram and 30 per cent jaggery. Since the amount of dried gram is higher, there is a higher protein content. But without amylase and maize, the mixture seems dry and tasteless, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said.
Unless the situation is rectified, the provision of weaning food could be a total waste, he said.
(This story has been facilitated under the One World-POSHAN fellowship grant)