How to achieve nutrition security?


Nutrition security cannot be achieved with 50% rural and 80% urban population being left out in the food security Bill. A committed group, consisting of workers from grassroot level, middle level workers and experts in filed oriented work, who can explain the difficulties faced in the implementa- tion of the programme can tackle the issue provided the government poli- cies and priorities go hand-in-hand.

Food security, food safety and nutrition security concepts have a profound impact on quality of human life. There are many external factors that affect both these areas. The challenge of food security is to assure that all people have access to enough food to lead productive lives, but large part of food security is aimed at assuring whether food is safe from a chemical, physical or biological aspect.

Surveys have shown that 50% of the world’s hungry live in India and with 200 million food insecure people in 2008 (Food and Agriculture Organization) India ranks 66th among the 88 nations on the global hunger index. Food security thus plays a major role to provide nutrition security. As per the constitutional provisions stated in the directive principles of state policy food and nutrition security is a right of every citizen of India.

Food balance sheet of a country gives the per capital availability of foodgrains per day which is calculat- ed as follows:

[Per capita availability stocks at the beginning of the year + total food produced + imports] – [stocks at the end of the year + exports + seeds + cattle/poultry feed per day /gms]

= Mid-year Population × 365 days

The per capita availability is matched with Indian Council of Medical Research requirements.

As per production figures of cereal and millets, they appear to be adequate (460g/day/adult person), production of pulses, the most inexpensive source of protein for the rural poor, actually shows a decline. Total production of vegetables is about 30% less than the demand, the total production of milk is about 66 million tonnes, corresponding to 197g per capita per day which is closer to Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 150g. As per the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau data the daily intake of protective foods is much below the RDA – pulses 29g/day as against RDA of 40gms, green leafy vegetables is less than 15g against RDA of 50gms, other vegetables is 70- 80 as against 100g for roots and tuber 100g, fruits 50g, fats and oils, sugar and jaggery figures of which are not available.

It has been stated that food security provided food subsidies to 50% rural and 20% of urban population. Of the remaining 50% rural and 80% urban, more than 90% of them are the most neglected group of middle class who can neither reach the rich or come down to BPL level. In fact they are more poor than the BPL families. Prestige keeps them from speaking the realities.

Mild and moderate energy inadequacy is still to the extent of 48%. Apart from food security there are several other factors which need to be addressed. We require a committed group consisting of workers from grassroot level, middle level workers, and experts in field oriented work, who can explain the difficulties faced in the implementation of the programme. At this point we do not require high level experts and policy makers.

Thus to secure nutrition security ini- tiatives should be:

  1. To plan drastic and stringent measures to control population, it must be brought down to zero growth
  2. Sanitation should be improved
  3. Safe drinking water should be provided
  4. Monitoring cell to look into the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other agriculturally useful chemical within permitted limits reducing devastating diseases like cancer
  5. To control food commodity prices
  6. The constant change in policies related to agriculture, food, are playing a major role in changing the dietary habits. Eg. the supply of subsidised rice resulted in the shift from millet to rice consump-tion
  7. The uncontrolled measures, resulting in soaring prices of essential food commodities, is making the middle and low income people to compromise on food choices. Many are doing away with vegetables and pulses and are trying to satisfy with some chutney made with chilies and salt.
  8. On the other hand white card holders take subsidized rice and are selling as cattle feed to buying expensive rice from the open market. Moreover the free supply of commodities and welfare programmes are making them lethargic and less work productive.
  9. There is need to revise the National Nutrition Policy of 1993. The committee should consist of representatives of all states from India who are aware of the lacunae in the nutrition programmes and can suggest modifications.
  10. National health survey is not done since 2005. There is a need to look into this.
  11. Toning the public distribution system

To conclude, committed grassroot workers and efficient policy makers alone can tackle the issue of malnutrition. Several level enquiries are required before any policy is formulated. In today’s scenario it is the policy of the government and their priorities are having great impact on the nutritional status.

Prof. C. Anjali Devi
Former Professor & Head,

Department of Food & Nutrition, Osmania University, Hyderabad

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