The Torchbearers of Mission Nutrition – The Akshaya Patra Foundation
After series of significant works done on key determinants of nutrition, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, launched National Nutrition Mission (NNM) in January 2018. The NNM is basically meant to provide the citizens, particularly the women and children, with hygienic and nutritious food.
Apart from covering up the under nourished children up to 6 years, the main objective of the NNM is to look after hygiene of school going kids and needy citizens, with special emphasis on pregnant women.
The union government had in September 2017 resolved to offer supplementary nutrition through Anganwadi centers to pregnant women, lactating mothers, children and adolescent girls. Consequently, the union government revised the cost norms and linked it with food price index.
As a result the concept of National Nutrition Mission (NNM) or ‘POSHAN Abhiyaan’ also termed as a flagship programme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India, came forth.
It ensures convergence with various programmes like: Anganwadi Services, Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) of MWCD Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), National Health Mission (NHM), Swachh-Bharat Mission, Public Distribution System (PDS), Department of Food & Public Distribution, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation.
Commencing from the financial year 2017-18, the NNM has been set for three year with an overall budget allocations of Rs. 9046.17 Crore. This is a comprehensive approach towards raising nutrition level among the children and pregnant women across the country on a war footing.
The NNM comprises various schemes contributing towards addressing malnutrition like: ICT based Real Time Monitoring system, incentivizing different agencies in states and Union Territories, different works and activities of Anganwadi centers, Social Audits, setting-up Nutrition Resource Centers and involving common citizens through Jan Andolan are among others. Besides finding out hidden diseases or other lacunas, addressing the issues related to the stunting, under-nutrition, anemia (among young girls and women) and low birth weight are among other targets of the NNM. While, the initial target to reduce stunting is at least 2% per annum, the agencies, with the launch of the NNM, would strive to achieve reduction in Stunting from 38.4% (NFHS-4) to 25% by 2022.
If truly implemented, the Mission will benefit more than 10 crore citizens across the country. The three-year-long plan, National Nutrition Mission would be executed in a phased manner from 2018 to 2020. While, altogether 315 districts will be covered in the year 2017-18, almost 235 people will be covered in 2018-19 and remaining will be covered in 2019-20.
The creative efforts of the union government is however being considered as a kind of ‘lifesaving kit’ for socially and economically weaker sections, especially those living in the remote – rural areas, of the society.
The vision of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is transparent and clearly reflects his pious thought towards creation of a healthy and strong social lives of all citizens. But now the question is whether, the government agencies alone, are capable enough to achieve the goal of NNM?
Here the answer may be in assertive or negative. But it is the established fact that a massive development or utmost success requires a wholesome effort. As such, the role of people participations, private organizations NGOs cannot be undermined.
With a proven experience of almost 18 years, ‘The Akshaya Patra Foundation’, a renowned NGO that has already bestowed its unforgettable memories since the inception ‘School lunch programme’ in the year 2000, may play a pivotal role in proper implementation of the newly launched ‘National Nutrition Mission’. Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Foundation says, “It is important to ensure that the high standards of cleanliness and quality of meals that Akshaya Patra adheres to, is maintained even after the food is delivered, right until it is consumed by children. In order to facilitate this, we plan to raise awareness among the school authorities and children.”
Noticeably, the Foundation’s unique lunch program in primary and middle schools in Karnataka created another hope of rays among the BPL families. As a result the Apex court, on February 2001, passed a mandate in this regard. “Cooked mid-day meal is to be provided in all the Government and Government-aided primary schools in all the states”, the Apex court directive reads. Surprisingly the ‘Akshaya Patra Foundation’ was asked to put forth it’s testimonies to the Supreme Court. Consequently, the Foundation’s school lunch program emerged as a true guide for the India’s much publicized mid-day meal scheme for school kids. “In order to enhance the nutritional value of meals, we plan to include high fibre, protein-rich millets and micro-nutrient dense fortified rice in our meals. We have started the millet integration project in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Similarly, over 6 lakh children are benefiting from our ‘Rice Fortification’ programme,” added Venkat.
By serving 1.7 million children enrolled in over 14, 173 schools of almost 12 states and Union Territories, the ‘Akshay Patra Foundation’ has now emerged as one of the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) mid-day meal program.