Packaged food for Aganwari children opposed in Himachal

[lang_en]SHIMLA: On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti a number of social, paediatric and medical activists representing various organisations have written to the Prime Minister against the probability of serving packaged food instead of meals prepared by the village communities under the ICDS scheme to the 8 crore children of India.

Disclosing this, Dr Arun Gupta, national coordinator of Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India who is working on the malnourished Indian children from a long time said they have written with a hope that the direction of national child health and nutrition programmes in India including universalizing Anganwari Centres of ICDS towards saving more than 100 million underweight children and preventing 2 million child deaths under the age five will be changed.

Calling it highly unfortunate and a retrograde step if the Union Cabinet allows the ready to eat food plan, he said, it would also be an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court orders. The Court has categorically barred the entry of contractors for the supply of nutrition in Anganwaris and had recommended the use of village communities, Self Help Groups and Mahila Mandals for buying of grains and preparation of meals.

Dr. Gupta said the technical experts both in India and in other countries, including developed countries, have never ever recommended that infants and children be provided packaged meals. Countries are in fact moving away from such foods and are moving towards healthy eating habits for their populations in their nutrition action plans which aim at improving overall health and development.

“Ready-to-Use Foods” in whatever form, will lead to not just dependency on processed and industrially processed foods, and set an unhealthy trend in the country, it will also destroy our vast cultural and food diversity, he said. This proposal is not likely to result in improved nutrition outcomes because of fundamental problems of sustainability and poverty. Moreover the proposal for introducing “Ready to Use Foods” in a national programme like ICDS is likely to increase corruption as has been clearly foreseen by the comments on proposals by the Finance Ministry and PMO.

If the Cabinet accepts this proposal it will legitimize the transformation of poverty and child malnutrition into a source of profits for the food industry; public funds will begin a reverse flow towards the industry rather than towards eradicating the root causes of underdevelopment and inequity that leads to such problems. Requesting the Prime Minister, to take a decision to strike down the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and do not allow introducing packaged foods or commercial foods in any guise, the members of civil society, like BPNI, demanded extensive consultations with public health experts, civil society programme persons and many others, towards eliminating child malnutrition. The signatories to the letter included Economist Jean Dreze, A K Shiva, Harsh Mander, Vandana Prasad, Radha Holla and many other medical and social experts, informed Arun Gupta.

(Contributed by K Y Singh)[/lang_en]

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