General Mills Gives Back to the Community through Child Nutrition Initiatives

By auther pic. Gaver Chatterjee

July 29, 2019

General Mills Gives Back to the Community through Child Nutrition Initiatives

General Mills has supported WFP pilot programs, first in Dhenkanal, Odisha and later in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, reaching a total of 420,000 children with a nourishing school meal daily across these two districts

General Mills is a global food company that Makes Food People Love, popularly known in India by its brands; Pillsbury, Nature Valley, Haagen Dazs and Betty Crocker among others. Featured prominently on its website is the statement: Our devotion to community and planet drives the way we give back and do business.

In India, the company has modelled its corporate social responsibility policy in line with its purpose. With a clearly focussed objective of reducing childhood hunger and malnutrition, General Mills has engaged with two trusted partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) and Tata Trusts, to reach vulnerable children in India, with the agenda of making their meals more nutritious.

General Mills and WFP Partner to Pilot Nutrition Programmes for Children

WFP has been working in India for more than 50 years, with the nature of its support evolving according to the growth trajectory of the country. Over the past five decades, WFP has grown from supporting India to achieve self-sufficiency in food production to providing technical assistance for achieving India’s targets under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 –Zero Hunger – by 2030.

Currently, WFP is providing technical assistance to the Government of India which includes a focus on improving the efficiency and nutritional effectiveness of the Government’s food-based safety nets, in alignment with the priorities of the National Food Security Act (NFSA 2013) as well as SDGs 2 and 17.

“We are thankful to the General Mills Foundation for their consistent support to WFP and their commitment to the cause,” said Eric Kenefick, Deputy Country Director, WFP India. “With their contribution, WFP has been able to demonstrate scalable models for addressing micronutrient deficiencies amongst children in India. We are pleased to note that the Government is already scaling up rice fortification which will have a sustained and positive impact on the lives of millions of children.”


A cook holds rice fortified with vitamins and minerals – like iron, zinc and vitamin A.

The General Mills partnership with WFP was first launched in India in 2017when they made acharitable grant of US $500,000 to WFP USA to be channelled to WFP India. The grant was in support of nutritionally fortifying midday school meals, in close partnership with the government, to address micronutrient deficiencies in school children and their detrimental impact on children’s health. This was done through two pilot projects – one in Odisha and the other in Uttar Pradesh.


Students in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, and Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, receive a midday school meal that is fortified with vitamins and minerals – like iron, zinc and vitamin A.

The first pilot was in the Dhenkanal, district of Odisha, where a large proportion of school children were anaemic. The initial grant from General Mills contributed to WFP’s pilot program in which meals served in government-run schools were fortified with micronutrients such asiron, zinc and vitamin A. The intervention reached out to more than 137,000 school children in Dhenkanal via the Mid-Day Meal Programme in 2017 and 2018.

The grant also supported a similar pilot in Varanasi district inUttar Pradesh, which was launched in early 2019 and currently reaches 290,000 children with micronutrient fortified school meals.

The success of these pilot programs led General Mills to renew its commitment to WFP in 2019, when it provided the organization with a second grant totalling US $500,000. This new grant is enabling WFP and its government partners to scale up the school meals fortification program throughout Odisha and Uttar Pradesh as well as to establish a pilot project on fortification of hot cooked meals served to 3- to 6-year olds under the government’s Integrated Child Development Services scheme. These interventions are further aiding efforts for integration of fortification into India’s National policies. The intention is to ultimately reach millions of children in the country with nutrient-fortified meals.

General Mills and Tata Trusts: Centralized Kitchens to Reduce Malnutrition via School Meals

In its mission to strengthen school meals programs to reduce childhood hunger, General Mills launched its partnership with Tata Trusts in 2016. Tata Trusts has enabled transformational change on ground both directly and with partners to address malnutrition in the area to improve nutrition. Given the multi-factor and complex nature of the issues prevalent, Tata Trusts have adopted a multi-pronged approach in order to address malnutrition effectively and at scale, through numerous strategic investments and programs, initiated after extensive research.

For example, Tata Trusts works closely with the Tribal Development Department to form the Annapurna Centralized Kitchen (ACK). A first-of-its-kind model, the ACK has set up kitchens which provide fresh, nutritious and flavoursome meals to students of tribal schools in Maharashtra, with a focus on the Nashik and Palghar districts where malnutrition is a serious issue. Through philanthropic grants to Tata Trusts of US $150,000 in 2017 and again in 2018, General Mills’ support for Tata Trusts’ Annapurna Centralized Kitchen project currently reaches 22,000 school children at 54 schools with up to four nourishing school meals per day.

Additionally, General Mills employees frequently volunteer their time and experience to the schools that Tata Trusts supports to help strengthen the nutritional quality of the meals students receive. The employee-volunteers have also provided critical technical inputs to help improve quality assurance mechanisms at the kitchens. As volunteers, General Mills employees regularly visit the kitchens and conduct awareness workshops for the students and teachers about healthy eating practices through a curriculum called “Nutrition Awareness Program.” To scale the initiative for dissemination across all schools, the curriculum has been digitized in the form of a mobile application.

“Tata Trusts feel privileged to have a corporate partner like General Mills, who has contributed immensely to the central kitchens project through funds, technical guidance and employee volunteerism,” said Madhusudhan Rao, Theme Lead, Nutrition, Tata Trusts. “Their social engagement model is worth emulation by all corporates. We are most keen that both the organizations continue to engage on the theme of nutrition and beyond.”

Ensuring that Children are Well-Nourished and Ready to Learn

As a global food company, General Mills is committed to ending hunger by increasing food security. General Mills believes that by expanding access to school meals and strengthening school meals programs with partners like Tata Trusts and WFP, children will be better nourished and ready to learn, improving not only their nutritional status but also their educational attainment and well-being.

“Making sure that children have daily access to a nourishing school meal in India, where rates of childhood malnutrition are often extreme, is a powerful way to help ensure children are well-nourished and ready to learn,” said Nicola Dixon, executive director of the General Mills Foundation. “It’s clear that feeding children at school is an effective way to reduce childhood hunger and malnutrition so that children can thrive.”

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at csr@ngobox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage. 

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Gaver Chatterjee is a freelance journalist who has worked with many publications in the past including Education World, Hindustan Times, PowerLine and many others.


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