CSIR labs across India coming to aid of the needy by providing food, sanitizers, masks etc in their respective regions and beyond

With physical distancing being the key mantra for preventing the rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the population, lock down has emerged as the practical solution to slowdown of the epidemic in the country. Much as it is necessary, it is also proven to cause hardship to the vulnerable section of society like the migrants and the socio economically weaker population.

Apart from being known for its R&D and S&T knowledge base,CSIR has a track record of providing emergency interventionsin the past during major calamities in the country.Whether it was the Uttarkashi and Chennai Floods or during cyclone Fani, CSIR laboratories have pitched in with their expertise and resources to provide succour and support in the form of water purification technologies, hand pumps, cyclone shelters, structural rehabilitation, and ready-to-eat nutritious food.

Says DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar Mande, “Even as CSIR put together plans to sequence the viral genome, develop drugs and diagnostic kits and explore vaccines against COVID-19, since CSIR has developed major interventions in food-related research and technologies, we decided to provide food assistance to the migrant labour and other needy persons in various places in the country. I am happy to note that CSIR labs across Indiaare coming to aid of the needy by providing food, sanitizers, masks etc in their respective regions and beyond.”

The country’s most prominent food technology research institute, the Mysuru-based CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute (CSIR-CFTRI), has over the years developed innumerable food and food processing technologies that have not only benefited farmers but also led to highly nutritious value-added food products. This time around, CSIR-CFTRI stepped in to provide 10 tonnes of high-protein biscuits, 1 tonne of spirulina chikki, 10 tonnes of cardamom-flavoured water, and 5 tonnes of nutrifruit bars to more than 56,000 migrant labourers, patients, doctors and police in two metropolises.The food items supplied by CSIR-CFTRI have longer shelf-life and so sustain for a longer time. They are also supplemented with micro-nutrients that boost immunity and help to fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

For instance, fruit bars contain added Vitamin C and Zinc which are known to improve the immunity. Spirulina chikki, a snack,provides micronutrients from spirulina and micronutrients such as Vitamin A, Beta Carotene and easily digestible algal proteins.In the cardamom-favoured water, the spice extract (cardamom flavour) has been infused to make it a healthy alternative to commercially available beverages.

In fact, the CSIR-CFTRI also supplied 500 kg of high protein biscuits and 500 kg of high-protein rusks to the AIIMS-New Delhi for recuperating COVID-19 patients, on special request from the AIIMS.The biscuits are 60-80% richer in protein than usual biscuits.

“The nutritious products were chosen in such a way that they supplement the staple with either protein or minerals and vitamins that affect immunity positively, because the severe anxiety and uncertainty associated with lockdown and isolation need both these to be boosted,” says Dr. KSMS Raghavarao, Director, CSIR-CFTRI.