In a bid to tackle malnutrition, the government is planning to collaborate with agricultural scientists to identify locally available nutritious food in different parts of the country that can be grown at anganwadi centres, a source said.
As part of the exercise, regional cropping patterns and local food rich in proteins and other nutrients will be promoted. Fruits and vegetables will be grown in gardens called Poshan Vatikas at anganwadi centres, he said.
“If you want to fight malnourishment, you cannot expect children to consume packaged, processed take home ration. You would want them to have access to something that is locally available and cost-effective,” the source said.
Several anganwadis have already started planting crops in Poshan Vatikas, he added.
According to the source, the government is planning to seek assistance of agricultural scientists and it wants to extend this exercise to government schools so that mid-day meals can be prepared using fresh vegetables.
“If we have support of agricultural scientists, we can collaborate with government schools to create Poshan Vatikas,” he said. He added that this will ensure that food is available locally and children know what they have access to.
According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), 38.4 per cent children under five years are stunted or low height-for-age and 21 per cent wasted or low weight-for-height in India.
The government has launched Poshan Abhiyaan or the National Nutrition Mission to fight malnutrition. It was launched by the Centre in 2018 to reduce low-birth weight, stunting and undernutrition, and anaemia among children, adolescent girls and women.
The initiative also aims to ensure convergence of all nutrition-related schemes and provide performance-based incentives to states and community nutrition and health workers.