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Improving the nutritional impact of public food systems

por Salomeyesudas .

Dear Members,

My name is Salomeyesudas and I work as an independent consultant for several organizations in Tamil Nadu, India. Currently I am working on a research paper on public food systems for the Dhan Foundation.
In spite of the many public food distribution systems, India is facing nutritional emergencies and the prevalence of malnutrition remains very high.
One of the reasons is that food schemes are mainly based on the distribution of the energy-rich cereals wheat and rice but do not take the nutritional value of into account.
I would like to explore whether the introduction of different crops such as millets into the distribution system could yield improved nutritional outcomes.
In addition to case studies and example from India, I would be very grateful to receive information on other South Asian countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Many thanks

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Lalita Bhattacharjee FAO, Bangladesh

Dear Salome,

if I recall, the MSSRF (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation) in India is promoting millet cultivation, conservation and value addition to enhance food security and nutrition for rural poor through IFAD supported programmes among others.  You may be aware of MSSFRF’s work on promotion of millets and indigenous foods for nutritional security. Here is a link to a 2009 Report on MSSRF's work. 

On impact studies, WFP/IFPRI have demonstrated impacts on food consumption and nutritional status though the links were not completely conclusive.  

Certainly, introduction of nutritious millets (which are underutilized) in safety net programmes in South Asia would help to improve dietary diversity and nutrition outcomes.  I attach a useful document which illustrates experiences from Africa and Asia. In particular, the India case is relevant on the availability/use of cereals other than rice and wheat in food aid which will help Salome to explore this issue.   
I will share other papers as I find them.

Kind regards,



It sounds like you are doing some interesting work. At HarvestPlus, we are also concerned about the malnutrition situation in India. In May, a high-iron version of pearl millet was commercialized by Nirmal Seeds and is being sold to farmers in Maharashtra. We are also working with a variety of partners to introduce pearl millet into the public distribution scheme. In the future, we plan to study the nutrition and public health impact that iron pearl millet could have if distributed through this important mechanism. We will post this research when it becomes available at our website: http://www.HarvestPlus.org. This may be relevant to the current effort in the Indian Parliament to introduce millets into the public distribution scheme.

Hannah Guedenet
Communications Specialist

Stacia Nordin www.NeverEndingFood.org, Malawi
Stacia Nordin

I'm not South Asian, but I've been working in Malawi for 15 years with sustainable nutrition systems. You are so right that there is too much focus on the carbohydrate without considering the other nutrients. Not just in food assistance, but in food security / food systems as a whole.

I've seen a couple of interesting approaches to food aid that need more attention, one being http://www.ontariogleaners.org/

They dry and package all sorts of foods - grains, starchy roots, vegetables, legumes, nuts, oil seeds. Then separately they do dried fruits.

Some of the orphan care centres here have them, and they are yummy, too!

This could be an approach that also takes care of the 30-40% of food waste that we read all too often. I bet food drying and processing systems could be set up locally throughout nations to reduce transport. Any leftovers from processing could go into animals, fish, worm farms, composting and back into local food systems.

Our food assistance systems really could become an integral part of our our overall healthy, sustainable food system.

Stacia Nordin, RD

FSN Forum Team FAO, Italy
FSN Forum

Dear Members,

please have a look at the website Millet India of the Deccan Society with background info on their push for a stronger integration of millets in the public food distribution systems.