When you think of Odisha, you think of beautiful views, fresh air, hospitable people and a peaceful life. The state offers a sedate blend of culture, natural scenic wonders and is a pleasant retreat for any weary traveller. However, the state known for its natural resources is also known for the alarming levels of malnutrition among its vulnerable populations.
Vitamin A deficiency has long been recognised as a public health concern in the state. A district-level study (NHM, MHFW, Government of Odisha) conducted in 2004 highlighted the fact that 64% of children under five had low serum retinol (a biochemical sign of Vitamin A deficiency). And despite the fact that Odisha is a coastal state and receives plenty of sunlight for Vitamin D synthesis, a 2015 study showed subclinical Vitamin D insufficiency in rural children under 12.
Milk to the rescue
Fortified milk is one of the simplest, most cost-effective and complementary strategies to address malnutrition. Vitamins A and D are both fat soluble and can be readily added to milk without any further technological involvement. A glass of fortified milk (150ml) provides nearly 20% of the daily requirement of Vitamin A and approximately 15% of Vitamin D.
The Tata Trusts joined hands with The India Nutrition Initiative (TINI) and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to enable The Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (OMFED) to pioneer milk fortification in the state. “Vitamins A and D not only help with improved vision and stronger bones, but also play a vital role in improving immunity,” says Mr Vivek Arora, senior advisor, Tata Trusts. Every day, OMFED fortifies 300,000 litres of milk in the nine dairy plants across the state, bridging the nutritional needs of 20 lakh people. OMFED engaged with the community to spread awareness of fortified milk through painting competitions in schools, and conducted door-to-door surveys to gather feedback on the fortified milk. “Milk fortification is an effective complementary strategy to address micronutrient deficiencies,” says Shri Vishal Gagan, managing director, OMFED. “We hope to make a significant change in the health of our people in the coming years.”
In order to reach Odisha’s semi-urban population, the Greater Ganjam Gajapati Milk Producers Union conceived the innovative concept of an AVM – Automatic Milk Vending Machine. The objective is to provide pasteurised fortified milk to areas which usually consumed unpasteurised milk, which has a high risk of pathogen infestation. India’s first-ever AVM for pasteurised fortified milk was inaugurated by Vijay Amruta Kulange, district collector, Ganjam district, and MLA Bikram Kumar Panda. The idea is to open five such AVMs in the district. “The aim is to provide good quality milk to the consumers. At Rs.40 per litre, consumers can collect a minimum of 250ml for Rs10,” says Dilip Patnaik, general manager, Greater Ganjam Gajapati Milk Producers Union. “Apart from being an easy and accessible source of nutrition, these milk AVMs will help us get rid of the huge use of plastics in the packaging and storing of milk,” adds Mr Kulange. The milk AVMs are akin to the ATMs in banks, and can be operated using Smart Cards, Tokens or even currency.
Through the Trusts’ synergy with OMFED and the Greater Ganjam Gajapati Milk Producer’s Union, the AVMs afford the people of Odisha easy access to fortified milk which will complement other strategies to address malnutrition and Vitamin A &D deficiency, thereby addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 3 – Good Health and Well-being. By reducing/eliminating the use of plastic the AVMs will also help meet SDGs 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 15 (Life on Land).