Anganwadi, a boon to tiny tots
Anganwadi is a shelter programme run by the Indian Government for the benefit of toddlers and lactating mothers. The Akshaya Patra Foundation provides mid-day meals to some of the Anganwadis in Vizag. This unit of the NGO feeds around 40,000 children in 304 Anganwadi schools in and around Vizag. These Anganwadis are set up mainly in economically backward areas. Mid-day meals can be availed both by these mothers and school drop-outs as well.
Tarakarama Nagar I, Anganwadi centre, Kancharaplam is situated in a neighbourhood where most houses have just one room to live in. Usharani, CDPO, Vizag urban II says, "Anganwadis are mainly for families who are below poverty line but those above poverty line also enroll their kids into this programme. At Anganwadi, we provide nutritious food to pregnant women, lactating mothers and infants from 0-6 years."
L. Kumari, in the picture with her six-month-old healthy baby is a beneficiary of Anganwadi programme. She is grateful to the government that she got to eat healthy, nutritious and fresh lunch every day right from her pregnancy. "The doctor too has confirmed that my son and I are very healthy. We got to eat varieties of vegetables rich with vitamins and proteins which we can't afford."
Her husband earns minimal by doing menial labour at a nearby market. With a smile she says, "I will miss this nutritious food from next month since mid-day meals can be availed only by my son now on." Kumari's parents too are very happy for the fact that mother and child are healthy.
S. Pushpavathi, Supervisor, Anganwadi, T R Nagar Sector, appreciates the efforts of The Akshaya Patra Foundation for carrying out the mid-day meal task efficiently. She says, "Earlier, the helpers here would cook food for the kids and mess up the whole programme. It was getting difficult to monitor the cooking and also concentrate on pre-school activities. Stacking of grains was another challenge since they attracted rodents spreading the risk of food poisoning. Transportation of these grains was an added problem. Now we are relieved of all issues since The Akshaya Patra Foundation took up the responsibility of making food for Anganwadis. The organisation follows the nutritional chart accurately and we get food freshly cooked without a delay even a single day. All we need to do is serve it. Most of the parents can't afford breakfast for their kids and hence the noon lunch is vital during the day. She also adds that the percentage of malnourishment has reduced, healthy babies and mothers are seen with good growth both mentally & physically."
Also, Anganwadis support and encourage adolescent girls who are school drop-outs, to continue education. Jhansi in the picture is an example of such children who have to discontinue their education due to inevitable circumstances. Her mother, being a single parent, can't afford to buy books and hence feels education is expensive. The family is dependent on Jhansi's grandmother and even she feels buying books and managing other school requirements is not easy which is why she discontinued school. I come here to take my afternoon lunch which is otherwise difficult to get at home," says Jhansi. Many young girls like Jhansi who have missed school due to various reasons are helped by a single meal at Anganwadis.