Whenever the word ‘instant’ is added before any edible item, the general perception is it comes under the fast-food category and is unhealthy. Dispelling the notion, Pramila, a 31-year-old from Gujarat’s Kolamba village who is also a mother of two, says that she swears by the nutritious instant khichdi, made by tribal women in state’s Chhota Udepur district.
“The mix is prepared using organically grown rice, pulses and vegetables. It makes for a nutritious meal supplement that can help curb malnourishment in women and children. Many pregnant women in villages are deprived of wholesome meals due to unavailability or affordability. This instant khichdi can bridge that gap.”
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Pramila is one of the 3000 tribal women who are a part of the ‘Paripurna’ initiative started by Gujarat-based Deepak Foundation in 2017.
Paripurna aims to make women financially independent across 88 villages of the Kawant and Naswadi blocks of the Chhota Udepur district through their ‘De India Express’ instant khichdi available in different flavours like moong (split green gram) and toor dal (split pigeon peas).
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All one has to do is add the pre-mix khichdi to boiling water, and a delicious meal will be ready within ten minutes.
The foundation, started by CK Mehta in 1982, is the CSR arm of Deepak Group of Industries. It works towards improving the health status of tribal communities of Chhota Udepur.
Besides Paripurna, it runs various social initiatives including education, healthcare services and skill-based training for people with disabilities.
In addition to health-related efforts, the foundation also provides technical training in sustainable agriculture techniques like vermicomposting and organic farming to a collective of women farmers and their families.
Why Instant Khichdi?
“Even though most of the families are into agriculture, under-nourishment is rampant across the two districts. Often yield is low, and they have to sell all the produce leaving very little for their own consumption,” says Archana Joshi, the Director of Deepak Foundation to TBI.
Indoor air pollution is another huge issue in these villages.
“Very few households in the region have a cooking gas connection. Women often rely on firewood to make meals. Making rotis on firewood is very slow, and as a result, they are exposed to harmful pollutants,” adds Joshi.
“Khichdi is everyone’s go-to comfort food, especially in Gujarati households, due to its nutritional properties, and it is also makes for an easy-to-prepare food item. Plus, today’s generation is all for ‘instant’ things, and thus we worked on a technology around it,” says Jai Pawar, Deputy Director, Deepak Foundation.
The product has been approved and registered by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).