India has taken strides in reducing its malnutrition dilemma, yet much needs to be done before the country can reach the global targets. Various government initiatives have been launched over the years which seek to improve the nutrition status in the country and ensure food security. These include the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS- the world's largest community based programme), the National Health Mission, the Janani Suraksha Yojana, the Matritva Sahyog Yojana, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme and the National Food Security Mission, among many others.
The ICDS has been renamed as Anganwadi Services under the umbrella ICDS Scheme. It adopts a multi faceted approach to children’s well-being by integrating health, educational and nutritional interventions through a community network of Anganwadi centres (AWCs).
The Ministry of Women and Child Development launched the National Nutrition Mission. In 2017, it launched POSHAN Abhiyaan that aims to improve nutrition amongst children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. Women’s education and proper nutrition can have a positive impact on children’s health since they are traditionally the caregiver of the family. With better well-being, they are able to create a better environment for the children. Child rights organisations and various NGOs are working to enhance nutrition status of children in India’s most backward communities.
The Eat Right India movement by the FSSAI focuses on eating right, safe and sustainable. It focuses on promoting awareness about a balanced and healthy diet. The initiative, in association with POSHAN Abhiyaan, has penetrated schools, homes and hospitals to educate and promote quality diets, with a strong focus on well-being.
In the last decade, careful thought has been given towards formulating strategies to achieve the World Health Organization(WHO) nutrition targets. The National Nutrition Strategy aims to reduce all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Along with all these projects, mainly focused on supporting the underprivileged and undernourished, it is equally important to simultaneously work towards nutrition literacy for the entire nation. It is the key to not only alleviate the problems of malnutrition in the country but also to empower the people of the nation to make informed food choices by providing them with the knowledge, skills and motivation needed for lifelong healthy eating.
Eating nutritious foods and balanced meals brings about a positive impact, not just on the body but also on the mind. It can improve our physical health, mental health and is absolutely essential in boosting our immune system. It helps in making us well equipped to fight infections and diseases. Nutrition education also plays a vital role in promoting food security, as it can help poor households to make optimal use of the local foods available and practice healthy eating patterns. It provides the participants with the knowledge needed to make better nutritional choices to combat malnutrition - over and under; and chronic disease.
Children being the pillars of the nation tomorrow, School Nutrition Education (starting as early as 3 years of age), is of paramount importance. Food preferences are formed in early childhood and affect an individual’s eating habits for life. Therefore, starting Nutrition Education from the preschool years, helps lay the foundation of healthy eating habits that children can carry into their adult lives. It equips them with the knowledge to make healthier food choices and inculcate healthier habits for themselves and their future families. This directly links to the health of the country’s future workforce, which when healthier will be able to create better work- based outputs and productivity.
Awareness and Understanding can work as powerful tools to help alleviate Malnutrition in the country; be it Under nutrition or Over nutrition.
Nutrition Education is the Key to Healthy India!