Mumbai, June 20 : As the country battles the 15-month long Covid-19 pandemic, a Mumbai NGO has come up with a unique mass-feeding solution that is bringing succor to the poor tribals in remote areas or even to the jobless migrants displaced during the series of lockdowns.

The Association for Nutrition and Development Action (ANNADA) has launched 'ready-to-cook', nutritional food packets with long shelf-life for migrants, and deprived communities or tribals, especially those in isolated or inaccessible areas, to survive for several days.

"In rural tribal belts, people are spread out in small clusters across long distances with limited access to food, making the situation extremely complex and a logistical nightmare... This is how we came up with an innovative approach to solve the problem and take adequate nutrition to the neediest families," ANNADA Lead (Communications & Partnerships), Satyen Melwani, told IANS.

Citing statistics, ANNADA's Programme Head Alvin D'Souza said that around 200 million people go to bed hungry in India daily, and natural disasters add another 30 million each year.

"The pandemic has doubled this number, bringing another 230 million below the poverty line and virtually at the doorstep of starvation. At ANNADA, we have tried to create a model that can provide hunger relief in these difficult times," D'Souza said.

After careful research, the NGO went about developing a wide variety of universally acceptable food-mixes -- tasty, nutritious, fortified with minerals and vitamins and easy to transport to different communities, ranging from a simple 'dal-khichdi' of north India to the 'bisibelle bhaat' of south India.

"We created the food mixes with ingredients sources only from FSSAI-certified vendors, processed them in an ISO-approve facility, and safely packed and distributed them with the support of our empanelled logistics partners," said Melwani.

D'Souza said these food kits are easy to store with a minimum 90-day long shelf-life, and can be cooked with minimal skills, simply by adding water and boiling before consumption.

Each ANNADA ration kit contains 5 kg of food materials comprising dal-khichdi, multi-grain khichdi, masala daliya, dal and soya or jaggery chunks to enhance the protien and iron content, covering the bulk of the nutritional needs of any individual.

Distributed under its flagship programme, 'No One Sleeps Hungry', each packet, costing around Rs 1,150, can easily feed a four-member family for 10 days, informed Melwani.

ANNADA Director Deepak Soni said that during the first phase of the pandemic, the NGO had disbursed around 17 lakh ready-to-cook meals in less than a month to around 17,000 families, and in the second wave, the target is to distribute 30 lakh meals to 30,000 families by June-end.

The trio explained that using a collaborative approach with 11 partners, the six-year-old NGO's ground network identified and reached out to the neediest communities without duplication of services.

"So far, we have sent these food-kits to far-flung rural communities such as tribals, migrants and daily wagers across Thane, Raigad, Palghar, Jalna and Osmanabad, rag-pickers and transgender communities, differently-abled and homeless people in the urban centres like Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and even Ahmedabad," said Soni.

"We have impacted almost 700,000 people, reduced cases of malnutrition in children below six years of age and pregnant/lactating mothers by at least 50 per cent across our mother and child health and nutrition projects," D'Souza claimed.

The NGO is now getting requests from all over India for such ready-to-cook food packets for which it has appealed for donations from people, philanthropists and corporates.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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