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Restart hot cooked meals at anganwadis: Right to Food Campaign

File photo of kids having a meal at an anganwadi in Gujarat.

File photo of kids having a meal at an anganwadi in Gujarat.   | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

The government must resume provision of hot-cooked meals and ensure implementation of anganwadi services such as growth monitoring and community management of acutely malnourished children either within the day care centres or at the houses of the beneficiaries, urged the Right to Food Campaign in a memorandum to Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani.

It has also sought a revision of the food package offered to children through anganwadis and recommended a “comprehensive package of cooked food and dry rations including cereals, pulses, oil and eggs be provided through the period of the pandemic” to safeguard vulnerable children from rising levels of hunger.

Food security allowance

Following the nationwide lockdown on March 25, the provision of hot cooked meals and take home ration at nearly 14 lakh anganwadis for over 8 crore beneficiaries (children under six years and pregnant women and lactating mothers) came to a halt. On March 30, the Ministry of Women and Child Development reminded State governments and Union Territories that if they were unable to home deliver the entitled amount of food grains or meals under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) implemented at anganwadis, they must extend food security allowance to each beneficiary.

Anganwadi services yet to reach poorest of poor, uneducated mothers

However, according to the Right to Food Campaign, not only were important activities to monitor growth levels of children and provide support to those who were identified as acutely malnourished discontinued, but the basic provision of meals at their doorstep was also not implemented at many places.

“The extended lockdown periods owing to the pandemic had resulted in temporary closure of anganwadis and led to a discontinuation of hot cooked meals, take home rations and immunisation support, counselling, growth monitoring, and so on. The discontinuation of growth monitoring services in this extraordinary time of hunger is depriving a high number of malnourished children from receiving the extra provision of SNP (supplementary nutrition) through ICDS. We have received reports from across the country that the supplementary nutrition provided through ICDS, which was supposed to continue during the lockdown through home delivery, is not being delivered in most places,” according to the letter to Minister Irani.

How India’s anganwadi system is getting some things very right despite its many flaws

It has also put forth several recommendations which include universal and unconditional provision of hot cooked meals and take-home rations to all beneficiaries either at the anganwadis or through home delivery. They have also sought protective gear for frontline health workers such as ASHAs and anganwadi workers.

Growth parameters

According to the POSHAN COVID-19 Monitoring report for India compiled in June 2020, 10 of the 14 most populous States did not conduct community management of acutely malnourished children and eight States were unable to measure growth parameters of children under six years. The report was compiled by UNICEF, IIT-Bombay, IFPRI, World Food Programme and the World Bank

Last month, the heads of WHO, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation called for a need to ensure access to nutrition, an increased investment into maternal and child nutrition and scaling up programmes to ensure early detection malnourishment.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 1:45:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/restart-hot-cooked-meals-at-anganwadis-right-to-food-campaign/article32289483.ece

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