Millet-mid-day meal in Karnataka to boost child growth

Millet-mid-day meal in Karnataka to boost child growth

For the study, scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad joined hands with two non-governmental outfits Smart Food and Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Millet-based mid-day meals can significantly boost a child's growth even in three months, according to a new study based on the feeding habit of Bengaluru kids.

After a three-month-long mid-day meal programme with millet-based recipes in four schools on the outskirts of Bengaluru, scientists found a significant reduction in stunting and improvement of BMI in kids receiving millet meals compared to the control group of children who consumed meals based on fortified rice.

The three most sought after items in the programme in which rice was replaced by millet were (1) finger millet idli, a steam-cooked fermented savoury cake; (2) little and pearl millet bisi belle bath, a millet-lentil hot meal; and (3) upma, a pearl and little millet-vegetable meal. On the taste count, the children rated the meals over 4.5 on 5 for taste.

The introduction of millet-based meals in school feeding programs can significantly improve the nutritional outcome of school-going children compared to fortified rice-based meals, says the study, whose results were officially released at an event at NITI Ayog here on Wednesday.

The meals were fed to 1500 adolescent children at two schools, of which 136 were studied as the intervention group and were compared with 107 other children in two other schools that did not receive the intervention.

“This is the first known scientific study of millet based meals in a school feeding program. The type of millet, its variety, how it is cooked and the foods it is combined with are some of the key elements that can make a difference in nutrition. For instance, the amount of iron available in a meal can be doubled by selecting the right variety of millet,” S Anitha, a nutritionist at ICRISAT and the study’s corresponding author said in a media statement.

For the study, scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad joined hands with two non-governmental outfits Smart Food and Akshaya Patra Foundation. The results appeared in the journal Nutrient in September.

“This is an example of not only a science-backed nutrition solution, but also a link between agriculture and nutrition. It is important now that we achieve mainstream consumption of millets and that they are not just for the elite,” said Ramesh Chand, member, NITI Ayog, who publicly announced the results.

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