Integrated Child Development Services in India through its supplementary nutrition programme covers over 100 million children, pregnant and lactating women across the country. Providing a hot cooked meal each day to children aged between 3-6 years and a take-home ration to children aged between 6-36 months, pregnant and
lactating women, the Integrated Child Development Services faces a monumental task to deliver this component of services of desired quality and regularity at scale. From intermediaries or contractors who acted as agents for procuring and distributing food to procurement directly from large food manufacturers to using women groups as food producers, different State Governments have adopted a variety of strategies to procure and distribute food, especially the take-home ration.
India’s Supreme Court, through its directive of 2004, encouraged the Government to engage women’s groups for the production of the supplementary food. This study was conducted to determine the operational performance, economic sustainability and social impact of a decentralised production model for India’s Supplementary Nutrition Program, in which women groups run smallscale industrialised units. Data were collected through observation, interviews and group discussions with key stakeholders. Operational performance was analysed through standard performance indicators that measured consistency in production, compliance with quality standards and distribution regularity. Assessment of the economic viability included cost structure analysis, five-year projections, and financial ratios. Social impact was assessed using a qualitative approach. The pilot unit has demonstrated its operational performance and cost-efficiency. More data is needed to evaluate the scalability and sustainability of this decentralised model.