- The month of September is observed as “Poshan Maah” (nutrition month) every year, this is the right time to draw attention to the need for a balanced and diversified diet among all classes of the population.
State of Food Security and Nutrition
- Though the country has made noticeable progress in alleviating starvation, malnutrition is still pervasive.
- The United Nations (UN) report titled “State of Food Security and Nutrition 2022” has indicated that even though the number of undernourished people in India has declined from 247.8 million in 2004-06 to around 224 million in 2019-21, the count of anaemic children and women, as also of overweight people, is still disquietingly high.
- The findings of the 5th National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2019-21 also showed that while over half the children and women were anaemic, the incidence of obesity was on the rise among both men and women.
Skewed Consumption Pattern
- This is a perturbing state of affairs because:
- India is one of the world’s major producers and exporters of food.
- It is the world’s second-largest producer of fruit and vegetables, after China.
- The country’s vast public-distribution network along with other food-based welfare programmes covering nearly two-thirds of the population has failed to deliver to its potential. This is because of its narrow focus on supplying primarily the belly-filling cereals.
Advantages of Millet Consumption
- The root cause of malnourishment is not so much the inadequacy of food but its skewed consumption, tilted towards cheaper (subsidised) cereals, notably wheat and rice, rather than the relatively nutritious coarse grains like millets.
- A recent study by seven organisations under the leadership of the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics points out that:
- Regular consumption of millets can improve hemoglobin levels;
- Reduce anemia-causing iron deficiency;
- Meeting all or most of the daily nutritional requirements of an average person.
- India, the world’s largest producer of millets, has been instrumental in getting the UN General Assembly declare 2023 the “International Year of the Millets”.
- The country, therefore, must lead the world in showing the ways and means to boost their production and consumption and their value-added products.
- The ultimate objective should be to make millet products part of the modern food platters to combat malnutrition in a cost-effective manner.