Agri Business

Millets make their presence felt on mid-day meal plates

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on January 12, 2018

Akshaya Patra launches pilots with millet-based menu in Karnataka, Telangana

Nutrient-rich millets such as jowar, foxtail and pearl millets, considered as smart foods, are being introduced in the mid-day meal schemes in Karnataka and Telangana by the The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) on a pilot basis.

The move is aimed at enhancing the nutritional intake of the students of the government and aided schools, besides benefiting the growers.

Students to benefit

On Friday, TAPF launched a pilot project in Bengaluru in partnership with the Karnataka government and The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (Icrisat). The pilot project will cover 1,622 beneficiaries across 10 schools in Bengaluru, where students will be served millet-based food items twice a week in addition to their existing rice-based mid-day meal menu.

Earlier this month, TAPF had launched millet snacks as part of mid-day meal programme covering over one lakh students in Telangana.

Launching the project, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda said millets were not only rich in nutrients, but also good for our health, small holding farmers and for the environment, which makes them smart food.

Focus on nutrition

Stressing upon the need to boost nutritional security among the school children, Gowda said the nutrient-rich millets make an ideal choice when compared to fortified foods.

Karnataka’s efforts to promote millets has resulted in farmers bringing more areas under these nutri-rich cereals this year, he said. Gowda said the State would look at funding millets in mid-day meal after the outcome of this pilot project is assessed.

“The millet initiative is a continuation of our efforts of enhancing the nutritional intake of children,” TAPF Vice-Chairman Chanchalapati Dasa said. TAPF, one of the largest implementation partners for the government, is keen to scale up the project across the State. TAPF has also initiated talks with the Central government for exploring options to introduce millets in mid-day meals in other States, where it operates. TAPF serves about 16.5 lakh meals to students across 12 States on a daily basis.

Besides being the knowledge partner, Icrisat will also assist Akshaya Patra connect with the farmer groups for sourcing the millets, said Joanna Kane-Potaka, leader of smart food initiative for Icrisat.

“Making millets popular to the masses again will be a major breakthrough in overcoming malnutrition and rural poverty while being more sustainable for the environment. It can also drive new markets and business opportunities,” Joanna added.

The Central Food Technological Research Institute, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, National Institute of Nutrition and the Indian Institute of Millets Research among other agencies are also contributing to TAPF’s millet initiative.

Published on January 12, 2018

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