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Antidote to Hidden Hunger

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This is a response to the editorial “The Scourge of Hunger and Malnutrition” (EPW, 9 November 2019). A dip in India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has rightly created a stir in the country. The continued focus on calories and the ignorance of nutritional aspects of food are responsible for the distressed state of the food and nutrition system in our country. Three out of four indicators used by the GHI in ranking countries dealt with nutrition. These indicators went beyond just stomach-filling or meeting calories’ requirements. The real problem is malnutrition and not a lack of food. Removing “hidden hunger” and not just “hunger” is the mantra.

What options do we have? First, food-supplements such as micronutrient rich capsules or food products fortified during the processing appear to be the fastest solution. However, besides the low purchasing power of the poor, constraints like lack of adequate resources, better infrastructure, efficient technology, and a reliable distribution system make it an unattainable option. The second option could be the implementation of efficient information, education, and a communication programme motivating consumers to change their food habits in favour of nutrient-rich foods. Again, this is a costly and time-consuming option, which makes it infeasible. Third, consumption of diversified diets may appear to be a sustainable option to control malnutrition, but this does not seem to be a possible option in the short term as it will require a change in food habits and food preferences of the people.

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Updated On : 22nd Nov, 2019

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