To prove a point about the community's willingness to accept eggs as a part of nutritious food supplementation, NGO Right to Food Campaign (RTFC) will be feeding lemon-juice topped boiled eggs to kids and pregnant and lactating women in two villages of the tribal-dominated Shivpuri district on Friday.
The community-led feeding programme will be held at Siripur and Ganeshkheda villages, about 50km from the Shivpuri district headquarters, in the presence of prominent development economist Jean Dreze, RTFC campaigners told HT.
The issue of feeding eggs to children as supplementary nutritious food in anganwadis (pre-school and nutrition supplementation centres) snowballed into a major controversy in the state last month after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan shot down a fresh proposal from the department of women and child development.
Chouhan, known to be a strict vegetarian, instead announced that hot flavoured milk would be provided to anganwadi and school kids thrice a week.
The milk distribution was to start from July 1, but has been deferred to July 15 because of fund-release issues.
Activists and many nutrition experts however swear by the efficacy of eggs as the most unadulterated source of protein supplementation.
The RTFC, that was instrumental in getting the nutrition supplementation programme launched in country through a petition in Supreme Court, has taken up the cudgels to prove the point.
Consequently, about 100 children under the age of six years and women in two Saharia-tribe dominated villages would be fed eggs along with khichree (rice-lentil porridge) in simultaneous programmes that will commence at 10.00am on Friday.
The children who do not want to eat eggs would be given bananas instead, Aarushi Kalra of RTFC, who is coordinating the egg-feeding initiative, told HT.
"It is being wrongly propagated that MP is a largely vegetarian state. We want to make a point that the community, especially the tribal people with malnutrition issues, is not at all averse to the idea of letting their children eat eggs as they are natural non-vegetarian food eaters. Rather, they see it as an incentive as most of them are so poor that they can afford eggs perhaps only once a year," Kalra said.
She said that the community was taken into confidence over the initiative and they were more than willing to participate and even to contribute to the egg-feeding programme.
"There is no doubt about importance of egg as protein source and the lemon juice addition would provide vitamin C supplementation," Kalra said.
Ram Swaroop, a Saharia tribal from Ganeshkheda, while talking to HT over the phone said that it would be nice if his four grandchildren could get egg from anganwadis. "We have no problem about eating eggs. Rather children would love it and it would be beneficial for them," he said.
The children currently get traditional food like daal-rice, chapatti-vegetable and daal-chapatti, apart from puri (fried chapatti) and kheer (sweet dish of rice and milk) occasionally, under the supplementary nutrition programme (SNP) at anganwadis and the mid-day meals at schools.