BHUBANESWAR: If things go as per plan, school students across the State will soon have small fish in their noon meals. Odisha is said to be the first State in the country to have mooted a proposal in this regard.
The Fisheries and Animal Resources Development (FARD) department has been directed to conduct a feasibility study and submit a report. The project will be launched in technical collaboration with WorldFish, an international organisation.
Project Manager (Nutrition) Baishnab Charan Rath said small fishes are rich in micronutrients, including Vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc, which are highly essential for the first 1000 days of human life for cognitive development.
“Besides children, we are promoting consumption of nutritious small indigenous fish species like anchovie (mohurali) and lesser sardines by pregnant and lactating women amongst the vulnerable communities in the State,” he said.
Initially, the small fish species will be introduced in meals in State-run schools, especially in residential, Sevashram, Utkal Balashram and other schools managed by the ST and SC Development and Women and Child Development departments. Later, it will be provided in schools that come under the School and Mass Education department.
The Director of Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) has been asked to provide information on Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, Utakal Balashrams and Deaf and Dumb schools in all 30 districts, number of children enrolled and frequency and quantity of non-vegetarian meals provided.
Rath said ‘mohurali’ is being served in five schools, including the two run by Basundhara, two Utkal Balashrams, Deaf and Dumb school and Blind school on a pilot basis since October 3.
“We are also providing the fish to pregnant destitute lactating women in a Swadhar Home. Seven more schools will be included in the project from next week. We are satisfied with the outcome as children are finding it easy and tasty to relish,” he said.
Small fish species are highly nutritious as they can be eaten whole including the heads, organs and bones. The Government is also focusing on production of the fish species to meet the demand. “Farming of the fish species has been started in six blocks of Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Jagatsinghpur districts. Apart from individual ponds, SHGs are being encouraged for farming in community ponds. The project will take care of fresh fish supply, food safety and fish product development through acclaimed specialists,” Rath added.