‘Atkel’ the traditional food of Kalahandi to “combat Malnutrition”

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Rajesh Pattnayak

‘Atkel’ is one of the most delicious food item of Kalahandi, Odisha. It was prepared by almost all lower and middle-class families a few years back , may be around 25 years back but now it is limited to certain families. The ingredients of Atkel are white rice powder, jaggery and coconut. Some also mix til seeds, ragi powder and wheat flour.

Atkel provides macro nutrients as well as micro nutrients. It is highly rich in carbohydrate, vitamins, and iron. The preparation process is unique.Some fry the grains first for around twenty minutes and then powder it and some first powder the ingredients then fry. After that the powder is mixed with water and boiled for around 15 minutes, jaggery and coconut mix is added for additional flavour and taste.

Atkel was used as a targeted supplementary food to overcome malnutrition, now its use is reduced due to more coverage of ICDS services and some substitutes like sattu.

Malnutrition is a serious condition which arises due to deficiency of one or more nutrients in the diet for a long time. In Indian context not getting enough nutrients or we can say under nutrition prevalence is high. Inadequate dietary intake and disease are two immediate cause of malnutrition.

First 1000 days is very crucial for a child. Pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood are the three stages of first 1000 days. Poor nutrition in these first 1000 days of a child’s life can lead to hamper cognitive development and reduce the school and work performance.

In year 2012, while releasing HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) Report-2011, the then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, expressed dismay at the ‘unacceptably high’ levels of malnutrition and said it was a matter of ‘national shame’. He also expressed that that ‘the health of our economy and society lies in the health of this generation. We cannot hope for a healthy future for our country with a large number of malnourished children’.

A comparison: Nutritional status of children under 5 as per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS)-4

 Children under 5 years who are underweight (%)Children under 5 years who are stunted (%)Children under 5 years who are wasted (%)
India35.738.421
Odisha34.434.120.4
Kalahandi39.736.624.8
Highest in Odisha51.8 (Malkangiri)47.5 (Subarnapur)36 (Nabarangpur)
Lowest in Odisha16.5 (Jagatsingpur)15.3 (Cuttack)9.1 (Cuttack)

People used traditionally Atkel to overcome prevalence of child undernutrition. This is mostly prepared by the elderly matriarch of the family. Elderly matriarch or mother of a child feeds Atkel to malnourished children at frequent intervals. As it is delicious, the children also eat it happily twice or thrice in a day. A cooked Atkal can be used for maximum two days.

Atkel feeding is one good example of community malnutrition management since long. Public Health professional also believe that community owned and community led malnutrition management is the best way to combat malnutrition.

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