No country can better understand the challenges of a food system than India which feeds the largest population in the world. The primary goal of a food system is to ensure nutrition security to all, it can only be achieved sustainably if the producer producing the food make reasonable economic returns that are resilient over time.
What is the significance of Nutritional Security:
- Health and Nutrition: Nutrition security improves the health and well being of Individual by preventing malnutrition and associated health problems, such as stunting and cognitive impairment. Around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.
- Economic Stability: National security enhances the economic stability of the individual. A study by world bank estimated that the global cost of undernutrition in term of lost productivity and human capital was US Dollar 3.5 trillion per year.
- Health Care Cost Reduction: Nutritional security can lead to reduced healthcare cost by preventing diet related diseases such as diabetes and heart related diseases.
The share of pocket expenditure in total health expenditure is around 47%
- Poverty Alleviation: Lack of nutritional security can perpetuate a cycle of poverty as malnutrition can hinder educational attainment and reduce income earning potential.
- Resilience to shocks: Nutritional security helps communities and individual become more resilient to economic environmental and health shocks. Having a diverse and Nutritious diet can help people withstand and recover from various crisis such as natural disaster and health emergencies. The covid 19 pandemic has exposed the population to malnutrition and hunger.
- Human Dignity and Equity: Nutritional security respect human dignity by recognising the food as basic human right. The right to food is a legal right that is recognised in the universal declaration of human rights.
Status of Nutritional Security in India:
As in national family health survey 2019-2021, 35% of children stunted and 57% of women and 25% of men are anaemic.
At the other end due to imbalanced diets and sedentary lifestyle 24% of adult women and 23% of adult men are now obese.
Challenges faced by Nutritional Security:
- Less productive Agriculture: According to the report by transforming rural India foundation more than 60% of marginal farmers supplement their income with non-farm activities.
- Depleting Natural Resources: As in the 2023 soil health survey almost half of the land in India has become deficient in organic carbo which is essential indicator of soil health. Groundwater, the largest source of irrigation is declining, in states such as Punjab more than 75% groundwater assessment locations are overexploited.
- Unmonitored Nutrition Programme: for instance, a number of states have failed to effectively implement Mid-Day meal scheme.
Conclusion: shifting an entire food system, is no mean feat but scale of challenge must not deter our ambition.