Ironing out Deficiencies in Indian School Children

Every school day, Deepak Kumar Patro, who is in grade seven, receives a bowl of rice, soya, eggs and dal provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) as part of its school meals programme.

Iron-fortified nutritious rice

Deepak and his classmates at Saraswati Vidya Mandir School, in Mohana, a small town in Gajapati District in India, say they like their daily meal. But this is no ordinary lunch. “The special rice has iron in it and it’s good for me, as it will help my brain develop better,” says Deepak. “I told my parents about the rice in school. It’s different from the rice I eat at home.” 

Deepak is one of the 100,000 students in Odisha who receive iron-fortified rice as part of a mid-day meal programme provided through the state government. In a project implemented by WFP since 2012, and paid for in part through funds raised during last year’s World Hunger Relief campaign, ordinary rice provided by the state is fortified with iron at a WFP contracted mill.

Positive results = decline in anaemia

The fortified rice provides a significant proportion of the recommended dietary intake of iron for children in Odisha, at a reasonable cost. And the project has shown positive results - with a 20 percent decline in anaemia reported amongst children aged 6-14 years in the region in the last 24 months. Much of this reduction can be directly attributed to the consumption of the iron-fortified mid-day meals. Prior to the project, schools in the district used to hand out iron tablets to students, but reportedly many children did not like the taste - and were reluctant to take the medicine.

But when it comes to rice, it is often not the children who need convincing. Mr. Rabindra Kumar Mudiyalu, Headmaster of Gandhi Memorial School, which is also in Gajapati, says he must sometimes reassure the parents that the food is okay – by feeding it to them. “We have school committee meetings which are attended by some parents, where we cook and serve the rice so the parents are also able to taste the rice and appreciate its value,” he says.

“I think this rice should be given in all the districts of Odisha,” says Deepak. “Why only Gajapati? It should especially be given in places where children are so poor that they have no food at all. I want them also to get this rice so they too can become stronger.”

Addressing hunger and raising awareness

World Hunger Relief is an annual campaign, implemented by Yum! brands to raise awareness and funds to address hunger issues on a global scale. Proceeds from this campaign primarily benefit WFP’s school meal programme. In India, Yum! brands has been contributing towards WFP’s programme since 2008.

Be part of the World Hunger Relief Campaign in 2015

To learn more about WFP initiatives to improve child nutrition through rice fortification in Gajapati.