Dasari and the CFTRI had discussed during a meeting the prevalent issue of maternal and infant mortality in India, and pinpointed a lack of maternal nutrition as a major cause of infant deaths.
Current efforts lacking
Though there have been government efforts to combat poor maternal nutrition, such as the Mathru Poorna scheme, several flaws have prevented them from making significant changes.
Under the Mathru Poorna scheme, expectant mothers each receive one nutritious meal daily for 25 days of the month at anganwadis (rural childcare centres in India), mainly because they are not consuming their take-home rations.
Each meal consists of rice, dhal with vegetables or sambar, a boiled egg, and 200ml of milk. Two varieties of sprouts are offered as an alternative for recipients who do not eat eggs.
However, the response rate to the scheme was only about 50% to 60% in Hassan.
Dasari pointed out that heavily pregnant women or women who had just given birth could not realistically be expected to travel to the anganwadis just for a meal, regardless of the health benefits.
The situation is exacerbated by the hilly terrain in some areas of the country and the inaccessibility of anganwadis for some people.
A powdery solution
Because of this, Dasari approached the CFTRI with a proposal to develop a nutritional powder specially for expectant and lactating mothers.
Presently, she has discussed with the CFTRI the ingredients such a powder should contain, and requested suggestions for other ingredients that may benefit pregnant and lactating women.
She said, "The government grants ₹21 per meal. We have asked the CFTRI to make a packet only for mothers. I am sure that this will be a big boost to mothers' and infants' health.
"This product could help bridge this gap. Substituting eggs is a challenge, but the CFTRI is developing the powder and we are confident of rolling it out soon.
"This could take about six months to one year. If it works, we will tell the state government that this can be extended throughout the state."
If successful, this could be a turning point for Indian women and children, who tend to be disproportionately affected by malnutrition in India.
Both nationally and at a state level, fortification efforts have been rolled out, to varying degrees of success. A major fortification initiative was recently announced for 118 districts in the country
Shortly after, the state government of Haryana decided to extend its fortified food supply to all Public Distribution System (PDS) shops in Ambala and Karnal, starting September 1.
NutraIngredients-Asia contacted the CFTRI for more details, but did not receive a response.