FMCH conducted a needs assessment in our communities in Jarimari, Kurla and Bhiwandi to understand the needs of the community and to cater to their needs so that we are able to hear from them their needs. Need assessment was done in these communities with the primary goal of identifying the persistent need of the community. Data was obtained by conducting telephonic interviews with FMCH beneficiaries.

Objectives of the Need Assessment:

• To understand the impact, mothers and their families are facing during the COVID-19 crisis
• To assess the need of the community and individual target groups (pregnant, lactating and mother of children) during and post the pandemic to overcome the changing and uncertain situations
Need Assessment questionnaire was designed to measure the discrepancy between current condition and required need of the community in order to plan appropriate intervention strategies as per the need of community.

Categories of question included:

1. Understanding the emotional shift during Lockdown
2. Knowledge of Community/respondent on COVID-19 infectious disease
3. Impact of Nutrition during the lockdown
4. Assess of the community to primary health services
5. Economic condition of the families
6. Expectations and need of the families during and post lockdown
7. Existing resources in terms of help that the families have access to

The results of this assessment showed most significant impact on food security and nutrition support followed by health and basic assistance required in primary health care and on the financial stability of the primary earning member of the family. Lack of employment has affected the purchasing power of essential goods and developed a state of fear and anxiety about financial stability in future. The Key finding of the assessment includes 64% families facing financial complication, 40% families stated an emotional shift towards stress and anxiety in house thereby affecting their mental health and 39% families have food insecurities which has led to major impact on health and nutrition. The most affected target groups in these communities are the pregnant mothers who have limited access to health services for their ante-natal check-ups and hospital delivery. Food and health services specifically to the pregnant mother are the most pressing needs of the community in the current situation.

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Lea Khandalavala: Internship Experience

Lockdown has forced us all to adapt to using technology more. People have slowly adapted to virtual volunteering and internships as well. Here is an experience from one of our externs from Denmark.

When I found out about the structure of my bachelor in Global Nutrition & Health: that we were required to take two internships, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was FMCH. I thought that FMCH would be just the right place to learn how to apply so many subjects I was learning and was interested in, and see how an organization helps so many people through nutrition. I had been interested in FMCH’s work for many years and thought they were doing some amazing work that I wanted to learn more about.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding lockdown in India, I was unable to come to Mumbai and then visit the FMCH office, the centres and anganwadis where so much work is done. However, I still gained so much from the experience of working with FMCH on the other side of the globe, in Denmark.

I was able to stay connected with the team at FMCH through google hangouts and WhatsApp calls, messages and emails. I read interviews about the field officers’ current experiences and got to understand more about how FMCH was working under the lockdown. My biggest learnings were in my internship were how to be creative regarding teaching ideas with limited resources and space and complementary feeding for babies specific to India and Indian cooking.

Though my experience interning at FMCH was not what I had expected back at the end of 2019, I still feel like I gained so much that I will take away for my future work and also just in my personal life. I feel lucky that I was able to do my internship from so far away and did not have to miss this experience because of the pandemic.

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Rashtriya Poshan Maah – Setting an Example of Convergence

FMCH, Government, Partner non profits and community members come together for one vision – Nutrition Awareness in Community

Poshan Abhiyaan launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister in 2018 is a massive program addressing the nutritional challenges of the country. Nutrition being one of the prime focus for the Hon’ble Prime Minister Poshan Saptah/Nutrition Week (1 – 7 September) was celebrated as Rashtra Poshan Maah/Nutrition Month throughout the country.  Smt. Maenaka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development urged the Ministers of partner Ministries and all the Members of Parliament to extend full support to Rashtriya Poshan Maah with outreach activities. Mobilization of communities being one of the main features of the program, FMCH too like other partner organisations participated in the Poshan Maah.  Several outreach activities like cooking competitions using local nutritious food sources, awareness talks, community meets, rallies etc. were planned. All the activities conducted on field received support from Department of Women and Child Development and Department of Health And Family Welfare. The government officials shared that the events were very impacting and promised to extend their maximum support in future events. The convergence was not limited just to government departments. Rashtriya Poshan Maah in Bhiwandi also received great support from international and national non-profits working in Bhiwandi like WHO and Sneha and also from community members. This support also resulted in a massive awareness march across Bhiwandi Nizampur.

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Creating a Warm Chain of Support for breastfeeding mothers –  International Breastfeeding Week update

World Breastfeeding Week went with a bang and kept our team at toes. The 7 days of World Breastfeeding week (1 – 7 August) have been very focussed and in line with the International theme of “Breastfeeding: Foundation for life”. The FMCH team participated with great enthusiasm and made sure that they were able to reach maximum members of community through rallies, nukkad nataks, awareness sessions, support group meetings and various other field events. Their efforts reached in all to 3000 people.

Since the major decision-making power in Indian families is mostly limited in the hands of a husband in a nuclear family and with elders of the house in joint families. Several events focused on engaging with grandmothers and fathers and sensitize them for importance of breastfeeding for not only for mother and child but for society at large also. Fathers and Grandmothers shared that they had never thought how a breastfeeding child can break the cycle of poverty for family. The community organsier’s motivated fathers and grandmothers on how can they support breastfeeding mothers not only in family but in their neighbourhood and community also, thereby creating a warm chain of support for breastfeeding mothers. This was not only limited to fathers and grandmothers but also shared with support group mothers.

The efforts of team resulted in World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action recognizing efforts of FMCH and awarding us with certifications.

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A mystery box full of happiness

Pumpkin, peanuts, shepu (dill), ragi flour, finger millers, chana dal and coconut — these were the ingredients for a mystery box challenge, at Magazine Street Kitchen in Byculla on Thursday. And the contestants were women from vulnerable communities, selected and trained by NGO, Foundation for Mother and Children Health India (FMCH). This outreach event was held as part of the Australia Fest, and the special judge for the evening was Australian chef Gary Mehigan. The winning team prepared a meal with rice, dal, roti, a curry, and a pumpkin and rava sheera. A first for these women in a commercial kitchen, Mehigan provided constant encouragement to the women to ace the challenge.

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The Aussie food ambassador

MasterChef Australia judge, chef Gary Mehigan, is back in India to unravel the mystery behind some more local ingredients

He is known for putting people at ease immediately with his disarming smile and cheerful demeanour. And Gary Mehigan, TV host, restaurateur and chef, does just that at Mumbai’s Magazine Street Kitchen, at the MasterChef Australia-inspired Mystery Box Challenge curated by the NGO, Foundation for Mother and Child Health India (FMCH).

In India as ambassador for Australia Fest, he urges the contestants to “have fun and enjoy what they cook”.

But he had a second job to do as well. Armed with ingredients from Australia — like lemon myrtle, caper leaves and more — Gary was here to showcase the ‘Taste of Australia’. He gushed excitedly about it, “Australia boasts of so many unique ingredients which are intrinsic to the food, and we are attempting to display those through my cooking at the various Master classes, demonstrations and curated dinners, which I am conducting.”

Indian cuisine, according to him, similarly boasts of a lot of ingredients in each dish. “It is the inherent love for flavours and textures that defines Indian food. Australians too are similar, as they also enjoy variety and crunch in their food,” analyses Gary.

Fan of Indian cuisine and now the ‘tandoor’

Fascinated by India and Indian ingredients, Gary has been travelling to this country frequently since 2012. On each trip, he says, “I discover something new.” If it was winter foods like sarson ka saag , hara chana and ponkh that kept him immersed on his last trip, currently, he is enamoured by the flavours of thetandoor . He is even trying hard to put together one for himself back home in Australia, by watching YouTube videos, although he admits he is “not a DIY person”.

The kulcha, too, has caught his fancy. He relished a recent breakfast of kulcha s with chana and agrees that this combination is pure ecstasy. “Anything that goes into the tandoor is so delicious, with distinct flavours,” notes Gary.

Ingredients apart, some of the skills that chefs in India possess intrigue him. He elaborates, “Making a laccha paratha, or even piping jalebi batter into hot oil, is an art. It all looks so simple, but it isn’t.” While the chef in him has spurred him to learn how to fold the layers of the complex laccha paratha and get it right, the foodie in him loves to simply devour it with butter on top.

Mumbai is familiar and comforting

He reminisces about his first-ever visit to Sassoon Docks in Mumbai years ago, when he was awe-struck by the variety of seafood. “The supply chain in Mumbai has grown by leaps and bounds and it is heartening to see,” states Gary.

Given his fetish for Indian ingredients, one wonders if he travels back with a suitcase full to Australia. “I tried taking ker sangri from Rajasthan once, but was not allowed to do so, hence I have stopped. It is only a few spices, which I love, that I take back in small quantities. But yes, I take back lots of ideas,” quips Gary with a smile.

With multiple trips to India, especially Mumbai, he is getting increasingly comfortable and familiar with the city. “On my last trip I was living in Bandra like a local and was pleased when I could even direct the driver which way to go,” he chuckles.

Using his knowledge of Mumbai, Gary Mehigan is busy guiding his wife Mandy and 16-year-old daughter Jenna, who are here for the first time, on what to see and eat in the city.

“ Pani puri , samosa chaat , ras malai and boondi ladoo are what I have strongly recommended. And yes, they must go to the Gateway of India. The Delhi recommendations will follow, when we get there later this week,” Gary signs off with his famous grin.

He is trying hard to put together a tandoor for himself back home in Australia, by watching YouTube videos, although he admits he is “not a DIY person”.

Old as time

Damper, also known as bush bread, is an Australian aboriginal soda bread, traditionally baked over coals or flames.

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