Include Millets in Midday Meals: Greenpeace India

Ranchi: In a press conference organised by Greenpeace India, civil society groups appealed to the Jharkhand Government to incorporate millets into the Midday meal scheme in the state, as an attempt to enhance the nutritional security of schoolgoing children in the face of climate change. Greenpeace India also released a report titled “Millets:

A game changer for nutritional security and climate resilience in Jharkhand,” which highlights the climate resilient and nutrient-rich properties of indigenous and local grains and their ability to address the persistent problem of anaemia and malnutrition among children in the state. 

Indian Medical Association (IMA), Jharkhand chapter President Shambhu Prasad also had supported this demand “The government must include millets as it is a natural source of micronutrients rather than artificially produced fortified rice to improve the nutritional and dietary diversity among the masses” he said.

Jharkhand has been struggling with dismal rates of malnutrition and anaemia with the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5)1, as of 2019-21 revealing that 67.5% of children aged between five months and five years were found to be anaemic. To tackle iron deficiency anaemia in the state, finger millets—which are local to the state — have high iron content (9.8 mg per 100 gm)2, would help address the issue.

Ashrafi Nand Prasad, Convenor at Right to Food Campaign Jharkhand, said, “Over 80 per cent of adolescents in India suffer from ‘hidden hunger’. The rice- and wheat-centric policies and a cereal-based PDS may have reduced hunger, but the problem of malnutrition persists and has only amplified poor nutritional outcomes, thus the introduction of millets like Kodo, ragi etc in ICDS and Midday Meals would be an ideal first step in fighting this.”

Culturally, millets have been a staple for Jharkhand’s indigenous population, and the inclusion of millet in the Midday Meals is also expected to ensure better price realisation, equity and justice for vulnerable tribal farmers. Rohin Kumar, Senior Agriculture campaigner at Greenpeace India, highlighted that nutritional security should be approached holistically by promoting climate-sensitive agriculture and diversification of crop systems instead of relying on silver bullet solutions like rice fortification, which may have potential risks. “Diverse diets including millets is the need of the hour.

Climate reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been suggesting that the Indian subcontinent is experiencing water scarcity, massive losses in crop production and disruptions in cities due to the extreme weather conditions.

The instances of extreme weather events and chronic changes in climate systems are expected to aggravate in the coming years. Hence, the government needs to create adequate demand and supply of many localised indigenous grains, vegetables and fruits which further enables cultural and social change in our consumption patterns,” he added. 

Aruna Tirkey, Founder Ajam Emba, emphasised that indigenous communities have been historically dependent on uncultivated greens as their major source of food and micronutrients such as calcium, iron, folate, vitamin A and C. “Despite the huge benefits, these forest foods are reportedly underutilised in the community.

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