Fortifying their future: Students in tribal districts in Odisha, India, get a nutritional boost
The World Food Programme-supported fortification of the government’s Mid Day Meal programme is contributing towards nutrition, good health and education among school going children in Dhenkanal, Odisha.
In the Indian state of Odisha the consumption of micronutrients particularly among school going children is low. This has resulted in widespread anemia, micronutrient deficiency disorders and poor growth among children. Working together with the Government of Odisha to strengthen nutrition among school children, WFP is fortifying meals served under the government’s Mid-Day Meal (school meals) programme in the district of Dhenkanal — covering 1722 schools, catering to nearly 130, 000 children.
Swayam Satya Shree Nayak studies in class 8 at Gangijodi Upper Primary School. She has been eating fortified food served in school, and is excited that her school meal includes a “special” rice that will help her fight anemia, and “keep her mind sharp”. She enjoys playing chess, and when asked about what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, “I want to help people, I want to be the District Collector for my area.”
Sitting on her school boundary wall, pretending to be the District Collector, she says, “If I am the District Collector for the day, I will ensure clean drinking water to everyone in my village”. Her mother Sucharita works at an Anganwadi Centre (rural mother and child care centre) close-by, and she too is happy that her daughter gets nutritious food in school. “My daughter is very smart, but like all other children here she is undernourished, and I worry about her health,” says Sucharita.
WFP’s pilot project on multi micronutrient fortification of school meals kicked off in Dhenkanal district in Odisha in early-February 2017. The project is expected to address the micronutrient gaps prevalent among school children, and also provide the government with an operationally feasible and scalable model to integrate fortification into the Mid-Day Meal programme.
Divided into two modalities, the WFP pilot is fortifying rice in four blocks of the district, while the remaining four blocks get curry fortified through a multi micronutrient powder mix.
Rice fortification happens at a centralized mill, where regular rice is blended with fortified rice kernels to produce fortified rice. This rice is then bagged and sent to the schools where it is cooked and served to the children.
Curry fortification happens at the school level. Once the curry is prepared, the Mid-Day Meal teacher in-charge mixes a measured quantity of the multi micronutrient powder into the curry.
Twelve-year old Anil Moharan from Siminai Upper Primary School is thrilled to have fortified curry as part of his school meal. An aspiring wrestler, he says, “I have represented my school at many national wrestling competitions. I understand the importance of good nutrition, and if I want to do well in my sport I need to be strong.”
Posing proudly with his certificates, he wishes to represent his country in wrestling. He is conscious about what he eats to become a world-class wrestler.
Anil and his classmates have been taught in school about nutrition, and more importantly about the benefits of the multi micronutrient powder that is being added to his school meal.
WFP’s initiatives in India aim to strengthen government food safety nets — making them more nutritionally effective. Strengthened social safety nets are critical to reducing poverty and inequality, and promoting inclusive growth. The Government of India’s Mid-Day Meal programme reaches out to 100.3 million children with nutritious food each school day.
WFP is supporting the Government of Odisha in increasing the nutritional impact of its Mid Day Meal Programme. It is doing so by supporting multi-micronutrient fortification of school meals. The project is supported by Stop Hunger, Teck Resources Limited, General Mills Foundation, and Sodexo India.
Find out more about WFP’s work in India