Food fortification programme to cover more children

An ambitious food fortification programme launched in Rajasthan this past September benefiting school children through the mid-day meals scheme will be expanded this year to cover about 10 lakh children. The centralised kitchens are supplying fortified soya dal analogue containing additional micronutrients under the project.

The State Government is implementing the project in collaboration with Jaipur-based Institute of Health Management & Research (IIHMR) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Mid-day meals were added to the programme after its successful execution through the public distribution system for common citizens, women and children having low levels of nutrition.

IIHMR Project Director O. P. Gupta said here on Thursday that the centralised kitchens such as Akshay Patra, Nandi Foundation and Adamya Chetana had signed memorandums of understanding for inclusion of soya dal analogue in their regular mid-day meal supplies. These kitchens will expand their work with the inclusion of more children in the project.

The total number of beneficiaries through the three centralised kitchens at present is estimated to be 4.73 lakh. The Akshay Patra kitchen supplies mid-day meals to the schools in Jaipur and Rajsamand, Nandi Foundation in Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Jhalawar, Kishangarh, Bikaner, Sagwara, Govindgarh and Kota, and Adamya Chetana in Jodhpur.

Dal analogue is a manufactured product made using edible grade defatted soy flour, whole-wheat flour and turmeric powder. It is manufactured using most advanced twin-screw extrusion technology, which makes it as close as dals, especially tur dal. Dal analogue looks, cooks and tastes close to tur dal.

Dr. Gupta pointed out that fortified dal analogue is dal analogue in which reasonably good amount of micronutrients such as iron and folic acid is added. “The micronutrients are added up during the manufacturing process and distributed in the grain [all over] and not just on surface. The dal grains retain these micronutrients during washing before cooking,” he said.

Even before the inclusion of school children through the mid-day meal scheme, the food fortification programme has benefited general population, including the rural folk, malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers, since its inception. Wheat flour, oil and milk have been fortified in Rajasthan as part of the ambitious project.

Explaining the selection of soya dal analogue for the project's mid-day meal segment, Dr. Gupta said dal analogue serves as a “perfect vehicle” for micronutrient fortification to combat deficiency of elements such as iron and zinc as well as vitamin A: “This product has a good amount of protein from soy and it can help control certain diet-related degenerative diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis.”

According to the project's programme manager Jatinder Beer, huge rallies of school children have been organised in several districts during the past two months to generate awareness among masses and highlight the significance of fortified food. The similar rallies will be held in Barmer, Bikaner, Sawai Madhopur and Kota districts during this month.