India had observed the National Nutrition Week which usually occurs in the first week of September (Sept 1 to 7). Child Rights and You (CRY), a prominent NGO which works for the welfare of children, has implemented a unique initiative called ‘kitchen gardens in Anganwadis’in the state of Chhattisgarh.
The aim of the initiative is to address malnutrition in one of the poorest states of India.
In a bid to provide fresh and healthy food to children and expectant mothers, anganwadis in remote areas of Gariyaband and Korba district have set up kitchen gardens in their backyards. Mostly populated by tribals belonging to the Gor community, the only access to these areas is through unpaved roads.
Kumar Nilendu, General Manager, Development Support, CRY, Western India, said,“We decided to set up kitchen gardens mainly to promote the idea of providing nutritious and fresh food (including local fruits and vegetables) to anganwadi children between the ages of 3 to 6 years.
He added, “We wanted to diversify the food basket so that malnutrition could be combated in one way or the other and hence the idea of having a kitchen garden seemed apt.”
Further elaborating about this innovative concept, Nilendu said , “The experiments resulted in motivating the anganwadi worker to such an extent, that they also started to grow vegetables in their own house land and bring the vegetables to serve the children in anganwadi,” said.
Anganwadis generally purchase and transport vegetables from local markets to prepare mid-day meals which are later fed to the children and expectant mothers.
This unique concept will not only reduce the time spent in the logistics involved but also help in providing fresh produce right in front on one’s eyes.
The work on kitchen gardens began three years ago by CRY and its project partner Lok Aastha Seva Sansthaan (LASS).
LASS has been working in 22 anganwadis in 12 villages across Gariyaband district in areas of malnutrition and education and also in providing complete nutritional diet to children and expecting mothers.
Volunteers working with CRY said that beyond the reward of home-grown produce, gardens not only provide easy access to fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables, they also help in the health and environmental aspect as well.
The diversified and highly nutritive vegetables and fruits along with native cereals locally grown are affordable and cost effective solution to hidden hunger and malnutrition and is a low cost sustainable approach for reducing malnutrition.
Six anganwadis were selected for the project which started three years back. The NGO wants this model to get replicated elsewhere also.