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United Way Blog

Swahar: Nourishing and Wholesome Food Across India

The Hindi word "Swahar" means nourishing and wholesome food. United Way India has led this initiative to bring food security and a health program to mothers and children through millet-based nutrition interventions. In 2021, the National Family Health Survey revealed that only 11.3% of Indian children receive an adequate diet. Pandemic-induced challenges made the situation worse. Surviving children face heightened infection risks and compromised growth potential. United Way India's Swahar initiative is working to change that. The program works towards providing access to nutritious and millet-based food, supporting the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centers in rural belts of Pune.  

India is home to approximately 1.3 billion people, making it the world's second-most populous country. Despite its economic growth and agricultural prowess, many people in India face food insecurity. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022, India ranks 107th out of 121 countries. These numbers mean that high hunger levels are undermining the nation's nutritional status. And because of systemic unfairness, hunger malnutrition hit women and children hardest—especially in remote areas and urban slums. 

A thriving India must address mother and child malnutrition. The current nutritional crisis has lasting socio-economic consequences, worsened by inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene in rural, tribal, and slum communities. Poverty, unemployment, and migration compound the problem, making women and children vulnerable. 

This year, 2023, the United Nations declared it as the ‘International Year of the Millets,’ and United Way India is spearheading the initiative by promoting millets as low-cost, nutritional superfoods inspired by traditional recipes, aiming to improve overall well-being. Since 2023, United Way India under the Swahar program has been supporting 4600+ beneficiaries at 435 Aanganwadis (mother and childcare centers) catering to children under 6 years of age, pregnant and lactating women. Each beneficiary receives a monthly supply of traditional and healthy food packets that include millets such as Ragi (finger Millet), Sorghum (great millet), and Pearl millet. 

In the face of hunger, UWI’s intervention is a reason to be hopeful. The program is expected to improve overall maternal health. It is also an investment in the future since the children involved will benefit from, ehnanced cognitive and behavioral development, and academic performance and retention. According to Jessica Franzo, the Co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report, well-nourished children are more likely to escape poverty, excel in school, and contribute to economies. Good nutrition is a cornerstone of future development. 

Food insecurity in India is a complex and deeply entrenched issue that demands attention, commitment, and action. By addressing the pressing challenges of food insecurity, United Way India’s initiative has a tangible impact on the health and well-being of women and children. Their food security efforts not only reduce hunger but improve chances for success in education, health and economic mobility and create more resilient communities. So far, the benefits to mothers and children stand as proof of United Way India's dedication to nurturing lives for building a stronger and healthier community. To know more about the program, reach out to United Way India at or visit