A New Look At Take Home Rations
Dr Rajan Sankar of Tata Trusts and Kalpana Beesabathuni of Sight and Life on ways to improve the THR programme.
While India has seen some significant improvement in the overall malnutrition status of children under the age of five, much more needs to be done. Nutrition is fundamental to human health and development. Addressing malnutrition will save lives, reduce inequalities, and build strong and resilient individuals, families, communities and, eventually, countries. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted food systems all across India, reducing the general availability of nutritious, micronutrient-rich foods.
India has one of the biggest platforms for tackling malnutrition in the world in the form of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a large-scale government programme that provides food, pre-school education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers. Within ICDS, lies the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP), catering to children below 6 years of age, pregnant and nursing mothers, and adolescent girls of low-income group, to improve their health and nutritional status. The Take-Home Rations (THR) programme is a part of the SNP, which provides monthly fortified rations to children under 3 years of age as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers.
In the pandemic, both during and post lockdown, families in rural India have been on a survival diet of rice, wheat and dal given under the Public Distribution System (PDS). While it provides basic food required to survive, it falls short of the desired and required nutritious, micronutrient-rich food, that is essential for the first 1000 days of a child’s life, as well as for healthy birth. The current situation will lead to a surge in underweight, stunting and wasting among children, low birth weight babies, anaemia, and lower adolescent Body Mass Index (BMI) – undoing all the good work done in the last two decades.
In a bid to strengthen the existing THR programme, The India Nutrition Initiative (TINI), an initiative of Tata Trusts, along with Sight and Life, has published a THR Compendium detailing recommendations that can easily improve the excellent programme. The recommendations focus on RISE: Refining THR composition and formulation, Improving THR production and distribution, Strengthening THR monitoring and accountability, and Enhancing the THR policy environment.
By strengthening the THR programme, India can support the growth and development of children and pregnant and lactating women, and ensure that the country does not lose the gains made over the last two decades. But what does it take to strengthen this program? What are the gaps that this compendium seeks to address, and what are the challenges involved?
For the answers to those questions, watch Dr Rajan Sankar, Director – The India Nutrition Initiative, Tata Trusts, and Ms. Kalpana Beesabathuni, Global Lead - Technology and Entrepreneurship, Sight and Life, explain why Take Home Rations are such a crucial part of our attempt to check malnutrition, and how the recommendations of this compendium will act as a force multiplier.