Why mushrooms should be included under ICDS and MDM scheme

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Partha Pratim Mazumder

We are all aware that mushrooms are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The antioxidant elements include selenium, vitamin C and choline, which eliminate free radicals or toxic byproducts of metabolism and other body processes, mentions Medical News Today. The vitamin B in mushrooms boosts energy and helps form red blood cells. Choline, on the other hand, helps in muscle movement, maintaining the structure of cellular membranes and memory. Minerals in mushrooms include potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Mushrooms are exposed to sunlight, making them a natural source of vitamin D2 that is turned into an active form of vitamin D in the body, which it needs to absorb calcium for healthy bones. This superfood can help in tackling specific health conditions, as research has shown.  A 2018 study in the journal Oncotarget talked about using medicinal mushrooms for future cancer therapy owing to its anti-cancer properties.

The antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols, polysaccharides, ergothioneine, glutathione, and selenium are known to be behind the mushrooms’ cancer-fighting ability. Another study in journal 3 Biotech explains that mushrooms are known to complement chemotherapy and radiation therapy by countering the side-effects of cancer, such as nausea, bone marrow suppression, anemia, and lowered resistance. Research has shown that mushrooms are low in carbs and sugar and are a source of natural bioactive compounds that are anti-diabetic, and help prevent gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The dietary fibre in mushrooms can help reduce blood sugar levels, according to Medical News Today. Mushrooms contain ergothioneine (a naturally occurring amino acid) and beta glucan (a soluble fibre) that can reduce the risk of heart diseases. They reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels which are linked to such diseases. Ergothioneine also inhibits arterial plaque (made up of fat, cholesterol, waste products from cells and clotting agent called fibrin) development, which could otherwise lead to high blood pressure and stroke. Studies have shown that when eaten in the cooked form, could boost immunity as it is rich in vitamins and essential amino acids.

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted some experts to look at the consumption of mushrooms known for their immunity-boosting anti-viral properties with renewed vigour. In fact, immunity has been one of the most-searched keywords on the internet since the last few months. Immunity is basically the foremost defense system against all sorts of viruses, flu and infections like cold, cough or fever and honey is one such wonder ingredient that comes with many virtues. Mushroom too is highly helpful. Accordingly, the Government of India has advised the State Government to include mushrooms in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid Day Meal (MDM). The Union education ministry has started working on a plan to expand its mid-day meals (MDM) scheme to children in kindergarten, and to also offer breakfast, and has written to the states and the union territories for their suggestions on the proposal.

The ministry was in the process of revision and modification of the existing MDM scheme, adding that it was in keeping with suggestions made by the recently adopted National Education Policy (NEP) – the inclusion of pre-primary classes in the MDM scheme and the provision of a simple and energetic breakfast under the scheme. Currently, the MDM scheme caters to 116 million children from classes 1 to 8 in 1.134 million government schools. The centre contributes 60% of the cost of the scheme and the states put in the rest. The administration is by the state governments. In the budget for 2020-21, the Centre has budgeted Rs 11,000crore for the scheme.

It is expected that the inclusion of kindergarten students will add another couple of million beneficiaries. That, and the provision of breakfast, is likely to increase the budget significantly. It is recognized the world over that 85 % capacity of the cognitive and analytical brain develops in the first six years of a child. The decision of GOI to extend MDM to young kids was an important decision for the future of the country. The MDM scheme was brought in with two aims – to provide improved nutrition and to bring down the school dropout rate. Providing breakfast takes the aim of the scheme further. However, since substantial resources are needed, greater community participation is desirable. People with surplus food grains, resources, etc should be encouraged to contribute to the scheme and committees at various levels can oversee the process.

The mushroom will cover all the necessary vitamins in a child’s health. Today, no one denies the connection between nutrition and education. It is high time to rethink the use of mushrooms in your daily foods. Mushroom in daily diet will eventually promote a healthy body, behavior and brainpower.

The writer is an assistant teacher and he can be reached at parthapratimmazummder1988@gmail.com




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