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In Assam, anganwadi kids get a taste of diverse food and cultures

A weekly initiative, the Dibbi Adaan Pradaan in Assam’s Hailakandi district, is a tiffin box exchange programme aiming to promote not just better nutrition but a diversification of food palettes among rural children

The Dibbi Exchange Programme takes place every Wednesday when children exchange their tiffin boxes at anganwadi centres in Assam’s Hailakandi District.

Lunchtime  — usually a meal of either khichdi or suji — commences at 11 am every weekday for children across various anganwadis in Assam’s Hailakandi district. Starting last month, however, the daily menu has undergone a slight tweak with the Dibbi Adaan Pradaan initiative, inaugurated as part of Poshaan Maah celebrations.

“Kids do get tired of eating khichdi everyday. So that is why we requested mothers to cook and bring their own food once a week — so their kids could exchange their dibbas with each other,” says Keerthi Jalli, Hailakandi Deputy Commissioner. However, adds Jalli, it’s a voluntary activity and happens once a week as an addition to the standard Supplementary Nutrition Programme, already in effect. 

The initiative has brought out positive results. “A Reang recipe is being tried out by a Bengali and a Marwadi recipe by a Manipuri!” says Jalli, who is the first lady DC of Hailakandi, a district infamous for its low developmental indices in Assam. Another successful initiative by the administration during Poshaan Maah was to introduce amla-gur candies in place of the unpopular iron-folic acid tablets for pregnant women, mothers and children. In Hailakandi, 47.2 per cent women (National Family Health Survey 2015 report) are found to be anaemic.

“Apart from just launching schemes, our objective is actually to reach out to households, make mothers a part of the initiative and promote nutrition as an everyday discussion,” says Jalli.

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And with the Dibbi Adaan Pradaan initiative, it has become a weekly — if not daily — tradition. Laisram Amita, an Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) supervisor in Hailakandi describes the entire exchange as “a picnic.” “In private school, exchanges like this common but when something like this happens for village kids, they get very excited. Khichdi, while it is nutritional, gets boring and this programme encourages kids to eat more,” she says, “The tribals bring boiled vegetables, Bengalis bring luchi. Someone else will get seera (flattened rice) ladoos. For a change, food becomes exciting for these kids.”

The Dibbi Adaan Pradaan program takes place every Wednesday which is also the Village Health and Sanitation day. The food exchange takes place outdoors and is celebrated with kids feeding each other.  

“This is the day mothers comes for medical check-ups at anganwadi centres too,” says Jalli, “Not only does it promote local traditional recipes, it also instills in them the value of sharing,” says Jalli.

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Hailakandi, which is one of three districts of Assam’s Barak Valley, has more than 70% rural households. According to National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 33.5 per cent children under five years of age are underweight.

First published on: 03-10-2019 at 05:00:52 pm
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