A study on the take-home rations (THR) scheme, which was meant to provide supplementary nutrition to children below the age of three at anganwadis, found most children did not like the taste of the rations, caused indigestion and that the food were given to livestock, including cattle and hens.
After allegations of irregularities in the allocation of the Rs6,300-crore tenders for the scheme, a study by six NGOs found that the food was substandard despite the government spending Rs900 crore on it every year There were reports of worms found in it and often children would not eat the rations as it would taste bad.
The change in the food items provided under the scheme in 2014 has worsened the situation as the survey found there was an 8% fall in the number of children consuming the food. It was also found that the nutrition level in the supplementary food was far less than the limits set by the government.
The 12-page report was based on two surveys conducted across 12 villages in Mumbai, Pune, Nandurbar and Gadchiroli districts. The families of 234 children were interviewed as part of the survey, which was conducted by NGOs, Rachna, Khoj, Aamhi Aamchya Aarogyasathi, Janaarth, Lokseva Sangam and Sathi. The surveys took place between June and August 2013 and September and October 2014.
The state government runs the take-home rations (THR) scheme that provides ready-to-cook mixes to infants from 0 to 3 years, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers, as supplementary nutrition under the Centre’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
“Around 98% of the children did not like the taste of the THR supplements. 40% of the families said that it smelled bad and was difficult to cook. Some of them complained about indigestion after consuming the packet and some even found worms in the sealed packets,” states the report.
The report further found 42% of the families fed their cattle, hens and other pets the supplements. Around 27% of the families said that it went straight to the garbage while some also found out a way to earn money by selling them to others. Some used to give it for free.
The food items provided under the scheme were changed in February 2014 after it was found that children didn’t like its taste. Earlier, the state government used to distribute three packets of powdered food comprising sheera, upma and sattu. Now, it provides two food mixes. One comprises roasted wheat, chana (chickpea), sugar and other micronutrients, while the second packet contains wheat, peanut, soyabean chunks along with jaggery and other micronutrient-rich mixes. The report also pointed out that the nutritive value of the food packets were less compared to the level set by the government.
The report recommended providing cooked foods wherever possible as children prefer cooked food more than the THR packets