The Latin quote ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ when translated means ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. And this is what a well-balanced diet provides– energy that you need to keep active throughout the day and nutrients that you need for growth and repair, helping you to stay strong and healthy and help to prevent illness. Hunger and Malnutrition in India need a proper discussion.

Hunger and Malnutrition in India
Let’s start by understanding the difference between nutrition and food. Why? Because it’s important to know the nutritional elements of the food that is served on a plate. While food does fill the stomach, the essential question that one needs to ask here is what nutritional elements have been consumed through the food?

The data related to deaths under the age of five years in the country due to hunger and malnutrition is alarming, amounting to many deaths every year, owing to hunger of children alone.

A quick look at the data–
India’s position in the Global Hunger Index currently stands at 107th out of 121 countries. With a score of 29.1, India has a level of hunger that is serious.
India is the largest milk producer in the world and is also self-sufficient as a grain producer. Still a part of the marginalised population don’t have easy access to either sufficient milk or quality food grains.
Several other factors contribute to malnutrition – safe drinking water, sub standard sanitation especially toilets, low immunity amongst kids and pregnant women, and most importantly lack of education and awareness of healthy food habits amongst rural and marginalised section of society
This draws attention to a very important question– are we eating right? It is easy to confuse filling our stomachs to eating healthy and right. As data has proven, this is not a correct assumption. What fills a plate also needs to be nutritionally balanced and filling.

Importance of Good Nutrition
Good nutrition means having a wholesome, healthy and sustaining diet. This is beneficial as it provides the body with the essential nutrients to safeguard against diseases. It also boosts immunity and strength to withstand any ailments that may prop up during one’s life span. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats are essential for a healthy diet.

So what can be called Good Nutrition ?
Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats are the hallmarks of good nutrition and essential for a healthy diet. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible as they offer no nutritional value, even if they seem to satisfy hunger. In fact, the side effects of consuming such food is alarming as they drain the body disrupting its smooth and healthy functioning.

Special Nutrition Programme
A special nutrition program was launched in India in 1974-78 as part of the Minimum Needs Programme. The objective was to provide additional healthy meals to pre-school children and expectant and nursing mothers for six days a week. This would provide the missing nutrients, making the meals healthy and balanced.

The programme is active in many forms both in rural areas which are inhibited predominantly by lower socio-economic groups in tribal as well as in urban slums. This initiative is required to ensure that the most vulnerable sections of our society enjoy a healthy diet throughout their lives.

The outcomes will be positive and the country will see healthy pregnancies, normal growth, development and ageing cycles amongst all.

What constitutes Proper and Accurate Food Nutrition
For healthy growth, the body has to function and grow appropriately. And for that to be possible, one must consume enough nutrients as part of their regular diet. Nutrients are of two types– macronutrients classified under proteins, carbs, fats, fiber and water; and micronutrients classified under vitamins and minerals.

Consuming meals that have a balanced mix of these nutrients, both macro and micro helps the body in producing the necessary energy, metabolic activity, micronutrient shortages, chronic disease prevention, general health promotion and well-being.

Major Takeaway
Food is every individual’s basic need and access to healthy nutritious food is every individual’s– be it a man, woman or child, fundamental right. Quality and wholesome food consumption need to be a matter of routine especially for the marginalised sections who are most deprived of healthy meals.

This is essential for sound health, normal maintenance of life, survival, and well-being of all human beings. As we step into a new year, we must pledge towards omitting hunger and malnutrition everywhere on the planet.

Smile Foundation cares about the food and nutrition of the children associated with its various programmes and takes special measures to ensure nutrition to children and families from lower-income households. Hunger and malnutrition in India will become a thing of the past with the initiatives of the Indian Government and various social development organisations.

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