Building a healthier and stronger India with the foundation of nutrition, ET HealthWorld

By Dr. Parikshit Bhattacharya

India has made considerable progress in ensuring food security in recent decades, for all individuals. There has been a positive shift towards addressing the population’s dietary requirements as India makes its presence felt as a global powerhouse. A healthy diet is essential, especially for children and women who have specific needs at various junctures of life. The youth of a developing country is its future, thus providing them with the proper nourishment is essential for the nation’s long-term development. In developing nations, access to wholesome food is a fundamental problem. Any existing issue of nutritional inadequacies must be addressed by giving citizens access to healthy and balanced diet.

This has also been acknowledged by United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition. India, the largest demography in the world aims to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2050 and has been focusing on providing its citizens with access to a healthy and nutritional diet.

In line with global priorities, our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has been promoting the same vision by observing Rashtriya POSHAN Maah (The Nutrition Month) in September. The focus of this initiative is to spread awareness regarding nutrition and introducing initiatives aimed at tackling the issue. However, there is still a dire need to fight the challenges of nutritional deficiency.

In today’s world, access to food is dependent on a global food supply chain. These supply and value chains have come under considerable duress owing to various factors such as extreme weather, export bans, and geopolitical tensions. Staple crops such as wheat, grams, lentils, and pulses have been in short supply or have seen their prices inflated. Recently, India had to halt rice exports due to rising prices and reoccurring climate issues.

Given the circumstances, India has identified millets as an indigenous solution for mitigating the crisis. Millets are hardy crops that are heat and drought resistant and can be easily cultivated. They have higher nutritional value than several crops and have a low glycaemic index, making them the ideal crop for a nutritional diet. They are gluten-free and can help to prevent lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.

To increase awareness and promote millet, India has launched numerous events and initiatives in 2023. Through India’s soft diplomacy, the UN has also declared 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”. Manufacturers like ITC, Britannia, and many other now use millet-based replacements in both their public and commercial goods. Making millets crucial for international relations and food security, as emphasized in G20 meetings.

Observing Rashtriya POSHAN Maah this month, it is time to acknowledge the need for collaborative efforts to fight the challenges of malnutrition. Facilitating nutrition programmes at Anganwadis, Ayushman Bharat Health & Wellness Centers and through community engagement programs, the private sector through CSR and ESG initiatives have been ensuring social behavior change for adoption of nutritional consumption. Leaving no one behind, civil society organizations such as Akshaya Patra Foundation and Isha Vidhya have been ensuring that every needy child has access to nutritious meals.

Another example is that of Anil Agarwal Foundation, which leads Project Nand Ghar. Aligning with this year’s theme of ‘Suposhit Bharat, Sakshar Bharat, Sashakt Bharat’, it is not only delivering services around education and women empowerment but is also redefining the landscape of nutrition and health in India. It is ensuring that children at the grassroots receive required nutrition for which it is delivering multi millet nutri bars to children aged 3- 6 years daily across Anganwadi Centres, thus also inculcating the habit of including millets in children’s daily diet. They also facilitate ICDS led Take Home Ration programme at these centres, with expertly crafted rations to specifically address the dietary requirements of various age groups, from newborns to mothers. Moreover, it is establishing Poshan Vatikas to help communities with strategically located kitchen gardens in and around Anganwadi Centres. These kitchen gardens or nutri-gardens serve a dual purpose in cultivating vegetables and fruits at the community level as well as nurturing healthy habits. Through Poshan Vatikas, children, women, and their families learn to grow and savor the goodness of nutrient rich food. Efforts such as these are paving the path towards achieving zero hunger and an India that is malnutrition free and healthier.

While hidden hunger remains a global challenge, India emerges as the frontrunner, grappling with the highest prevalence of this issue. However, the efforts highlight the power of collaboration that is driving India to a path of health and wellbeing in the fight against hunger and ensuring everyone has access to nutritious diet. India is on course to achieve the UN SDG Goal 2 by 2030 through these by ensuring that communities have adequate nutrition.

Dr. Parikshit Bhattacharya, Lifestyle & Functional Medicine Specialist

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)

  • Published On Sep 26, 2023 at 05:21 AM IST

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