Over eight crore children aged up to six years who are enrolled in Anganwadis can now look forward to more nutritious food with the government initiating corrective steps after it was found that one in every four children at these centres was malnourished.
There are around 13.3 lakh Anganwadi and mini-Anganwadi centres across the country which provide supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, immunisation and health check-ups for the economically-weaker sections.
Concerned by the issue of undernourishment, the Women and Child Development Ministry has decided on various steps, including to revamp its four existing quality control labs for monitoring the nutrition level of supplements given to these children.
The labs will undertake random tests of the food supplied to children to establish whether the supplement is in accordance with the prescribed norms of the ministry’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
“There are four old laboratories in each metro which are non-functional. We will upgrade them depending on the amount of funds we are able to get from the government. The labs will conduct random tests on food and raw materials used by the Anganwadis to feed the children,” a ministry official said, adding that the Delhi lab will be revamped to a state-of-art facility.
A recent ICDS survey found that one in every four children at Anganwadis in the country was underweight and suffering from malnutrition. Most of these kids belong to the weaker sections of society.
The lab project is being undertaken by WCD ministry’s Food and Nutrition Board, a technical wing that provides guidance on nutrition-oriented schemes and campaigns of the government.
The Board will also launch 12 new labs in states where undernourishment is predominant. A project report is being prepared by the WCD ministry for the labs, which has a total estimate of Rs 60 crore.
The ministry also aims to crack the whip on state administrations which are found to have failed in providing adequate supplementary nutrition to children in view of resource constraints.
“The labs would help us to check whether the money provided by the government is being utilised in the right direction,” he said.
Under ICDS, the Centre provides fifty per cent of the total expenditure incurred by state administrations on supplementary nutrition.