From the desk of Editor-in-Chief

Why Nutrition Matters

There is a nip in the air and festivities are slowly rolling along.

We at The Bridge India are celebrating, like we always do, with sharing change, growth, and hope for a better society. One of our latest celebrations was the second edition of India’s first quiz competition focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Kaun Banega Social Sector champion 2021

A part of our upcoming fourth anniversary, the preliminary round of the quiz show brought together 21 participants from NGOs, PSUs and Corporates. The grand finale will be held in December.

The reason for choosing to focus on SDGs was simple, we are doing our bit to draw attention to some very crucial areas that need urgent focus.

And it is for this reason we are also dedicating our current issue to an extremely critical area that needs urgent attention–Nutrition. In fact, ‘Zero hunger’ and “Good health and Well being’ are two sustainable development goals.

And If numbers are anything to go by, India certainly needs help. The recently released 2021 Global Hunger Index points to a worrying picture for India which ranked 101 out of the 116 countries. With a score of 27.5, India has a “serious” hunger problem. pointed the report.

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The COVID-19 situation only made this serious problem, worse. A recently released Lancet article on the indirect effects of COVID-19 pandemic in low- and middle-income countries estimated that an increase in wasting prevalence would account for 18–23 percent of additional child deaths per month.

But where there is darkness, there ought to be light and we tried to find that light in this dark cloud of malnutrition. Connecting dots, bringing best policies to the fore, raising some pertinent questions. Our stories this time focus on some path breaking work being done by some dedicated Corporate Houses, Government as well as NGOs in the field of nutrition.

And we at The Bridge India, believe, every good deed counts.

So let us all do our bit!

Happy Reading!

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Corporate biggies walk the nutrition talk

By Prachi Raturi Misra

Pic Courtesy: Dabur India Ltd.

We are what we eat, they say. And given what an average Indian gets to eat, it’s no surprise our nutrition levels are one of the poorest .According to Global Nutrition report, 2020,. 51.4% of women aged 15 to 49 years are affected by anaemia. India is ‘on course’ to meet the target for stunting, but 34.7% of children under 5 years of age are still affected, which is higher than the average for the Asia region (21.8%).

World Health Organization (WHO) says, “Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of poverty and hunger.”

The fact that poor nutrition doesn’t only lead to poor health but also has larger implication for a nation is a well known fact. A Bloomberg 2020, report pointed out that poor diets in developing countries are costing businesses as much as $850 billion a year in lost productivity.

A host of initiatives are being taken by the government, NGO as well as corporates to step up India’s nutrition goals. We look at some of the initiatives by a few leading corporates. From setting up kitchen to serve nutritious meals to children at school to helping set up kitchen gardens at homes to helping understand nutrition, they are doing it all.

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Nutrition-focused initiatives undertaken by Dabur India Ltd .

With its corporate motto being, ‘Dedicated to the Health and Well-Being of every Household’, talking nutrition as part of its CSR activities, says Dabur India Ltd CSR Head Mr. A. Sudhakar, is a natural extension of its motto.

“At Dabur, we have been working towards ensuring that a greater share of the population from the socially and economically weaker classes lead a healthy life. We work with local NGOs across the length and breadth of the country to jointly spread awareness about the need for a balanced diet and to meet the nutrition-related needs of people from underprivileged sections of the society,” he says.

Swasthya Aur Suraksha:
Dabur has put together an integrated programme aimed at improving the Health, Nutrition and Safety Standards in rural India, with a particular focus on the girl child. The programmes have been specially crafted to give the girl child the right chances to nurture their talent and skills, and helping them excel in different areas of life. The four key pillars of this Integrated Programme are:

• Safe and Nutritious Food
• Promoting Kitchen Garden
• Self-Defense Training
• Promoting Health Care

As part of this programme, Dabur, along with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – organise Safe & Nutritious Food (SNF) campaigns in schools to spread awareness about having a balanced diet and staying away from junk food. Seeing children as “powerful change agents who can usher in behavioural change and promote consumption of safe and wholesome food in their respective households”, Dabur began the Swasthya aur Suaksha programme. Through this, they reach out to school-going children and teachers to spread information about nutritious food intake.

Ghar Ki Bagiya:
During their interactions with the community and at the various malnutrition screening camps in the villages, Dabur, came across children suffering from malnutrition. “Their parents were, in fact, surprised that despite having proper meals, comprising rice and pulses, their children were facing these issues. Most parents were ignorant of the fact that adding fruits and vegetables in their daily diet was necessary to get the required nutrition. Some said the high prices put the fruits and vegetables beyond their reach, while marginal farmers did not want to use their small farmlands for growing vegetables and preferred crop that yielded better returns” shares Mr Sudhakar.

The idea of Ghar ki Bagiya came as the extremely unique project which works on building awareness within the community about environment as well as encourage them to plant and nurture plants that provide nutritious fruits and vegetables for their own consumption. The initiative offers dual benefits to community members by providing them seeds to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables for their daily consumption besides generating addition income for their households. This initiative has not only helped in upping the nutrition levels in target communities but has gone a long way in enhancing the green cover in the villages.

Over 600 families in 20 villages in Uttar Pradesh, 200 families from 9 villages of Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), 400 families from 10 villages in Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and 300 families from 4 villages of Tezpur (Assam) have benefited from our GharkiBagiyaprogramme in 2020-21 and are now consuming vegetables as part of their daily diet.

Nutrition Support during COVID:
Under this programme, Dabur provided Immunity and Nutrition support to Communities and Migrant Workers who were struggling for daily essentials. They worked with local NGOs and community leaders to not only provide dry ration and nutritious meals but also medicines to people in need during the lockdown. Dabur supported these distressed families by providing them with groceries and vegetables, besides Nutrition and Health Care products and face masks.

Adani Wilmar’s Fortune SuPoshan project

Adani Wilmar Limited’s Fortune SuPoshan project, which aims to tackle malnourishment by improving nutrition levels among young children in its first phase ( 2016 to 2020) showed an assessment report, contributed to a significant reduction in malnutrition indicators.

Launched in May 2016, the Fortune SuPoshan project, which was executed on the ground by Adani Foundation, the CSR arm of Adani Group, is a mission against Malnutrition and Anemia and it was operational in ten sites Mundra, Hazira, Dahej, Kawai, Shimla, Tirora, Sarguja, Vinzhinjam, Kamuthi and Bitta across seven states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The project will continue its operation at its existing sites by reaching the target group 0-5 age children, adolescent girls, and women in reproductive age.

All 239 villages where the Fortune SuPoshan project was operational in the first phase have shown a significant reduction in all three malnutrition indicators.
After four years of intervention via the Fortune SuPoshan project, the levels at the 10 sites fell to 4.1%, 1.3%, and 2.7%, respectively as found in the Universal Anthropometric Measurement conducted by Fortune SuPoshan’s team of village volunteers called SuPoshan Sanginis at these locations in the year 2019-20.
“It is most gratifying to see the significant impact the Fortune SuPoshan project has had in improving nutrition levels among young children across its sites. The project has been expanded to more sites now, and Adani Wilmar is committed to contributing to make India a healthy country,” said Angshu Mallick, MD and CEO, Adani Wilmar.

Havells India Ltd:Nourishing minds and bodies

Anxious eyes of some 70,000 odd children from the 700 Government School children in Alwar await QRG Foundation’s White and Orange vehicles, to bring them hot nutritious meals.

The journey began in 2004 with meals from a ready made meals from a popular restaurant supplied to a few schools. A year later, in 2005 it was decided to extend the food programme to more schools and begin a mid day meal scheme whereby children would get a nutritious, well balanced meal cooked with care and the best of ingredients at Havell’s very own facility.

In 2006 when government launched its mid day meal scheme throughout India, several Government school in Alwar already had a scheme going on, thanks to Havells Group.

The government then added their support with a 40 per cent funding. With the 60 percent that QRG foundation puts in, the biggest focus is on the quality of raw material, not to forget the cooking.

Interestingly, since QRG meals started there have been some marked changes in the lives of these children. Some of the most important ones are:

Reduction in dropout rate, more enrollments, better nutrition which leads to better concentration.

Nutrition, thus,a host of corporates realise, is an area that could definitely do with some helping hands because a better nourished society also means growth for the nation and economy. We, at The Bridge India couldn’t agree more.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India Correspondent 

Parivartan – Prison to Pride

Driven by a strong social conscience Indian Oil embarked on a social stewardship initiative among others from 15th August 2021 to commemorate ‘Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav’- the 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence.
  • Parivartan is an initiative to socially re-Integrate prison inmates through sports. It aims at organizing sports coaching camp for prison inmates through Indian Oil Sportspersons and external coach.
  • Motivated them to engage in sports has also aided in inhibiting their relapse to unlawful activities.
  • Prison sport and physical activity programs played a key role in supporting prisoners to rehabilitate.

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  • This initiative has been successfully implemented at various prisons all over the world.
  • This program also helped to impart personal and social values (Respect, Autonomy, Motivation, Equality, Self-esteem, Health & Companionship) to facilitate future integration of the inmates into society.

In the four-week-long training programs, 129 inmates have been coached from the basics of the sport, and at the end of the program, they were confident enough to play competitive matches for local level matches and recreation. Increasingly, evidence has shown that sports has an impact on the inmates’ overall mental & physical health to combat depression, stress and anxiety & erase social stigma.

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Winners of 12thNCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards 2021 announced

Access, is an issue that cuts across disabilities and sectors and forms the very basis of empowerment of people with disabilities. A concept that is intrinsic to any kind of access is ‘Universal Design’, which means a design that is usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation. This could mean the built environment, technology, transport, and so on. Universal Design accommodates people with disabilities, older people, children, and others who are non-average in a way that is not stigmatizing and benefits all users.

The NCPEDP Mphasis Universal Design Awards which were Instituted in 2010 by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in partnership with Mphasis, announced the awardees for its 12th edition after a jury meet on 15th September.

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The awards have played a significant role in encouraging and recognising all efforts in the field of universal design and accessibility. Accessibility not only means access to physical spaces but also means access to information, technology, transport, services, aids and appliances, etc.

This year around 72 applications were received from across the country and also overseas. The categroes includes Persons with Disabilities, Working professionals ,companies or organisations and Special Jury Award and JavedAbidi Public Policy Award

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Tech Mahindra Foundation: Eyes on health

Observing the World Sight Day this year, Tech Mahindra Foundation (TMF), the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of Tech Mahindra, hosted the fifth edition of Saajhi Samajh on ‘Evolving Role of Teachers in Eye Health at Schools’.

The event also saw the release of a research report ‘Teacher’s Perspective, Awareness and
Understanding of Student’s Eye Health’, by Dr Umang Mathur, Executive Director, Dr Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, New Delhi. The report is based on research conducted by the Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Unit of the Tech Mahindra Foundation across government school teachers in Delhi.

According to the respondents, the research highlights that, ‘too much screen time’ is rated as the highest contributing factor towards the eye health issues in children, and the lowest-rated factor is hereditary or genetics. The report also highlights how teachers can be the catalysts and play animportant role in the eye health of children.

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Speaking about the initiative, Rakesh Soni, CEO, Tech Mahindra Foundation said “Blindness and visual impairment is preventable if detected at early stages. Therefore, improving eye health awareness inschools, especially amongst teachers, is a potential solution to identify early stages of vision ailments amongst school children.”

There was also a panel discussion addressing the evolving role of teachers in creating awareness about Eye Health in schools.

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Government upping the nutrition levels for a healthier country

By The Bridge India Team 

The pandemic created a complex crisis that has affected all aspects of life – both immediate and long-term -across social strata. In India, the rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases during the first and second waves, as well as the stringent measures adopted to contain its spread did put millions of families at risk by impacting their food supply, livelihoods and household incomes and their ability to access critical services for health, nutrition and early childhood care.

The Government understands the serious implication of malnutrition not just on the well- being of the population but also growth of the nation. This has led to a host of initiatives to counter malnutrition, under the umbrella Integrated Child Development Services Scheme as direct targeted interventions to address the problem of malnutrition in the country.

All these schemes address one or other aspects related to nutrition and have the potential to improve nutritional outcomes in the country.

We look at some important programmes:

POSHAN Abhiyaan

POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) is a flagship programme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India.

About the Mission
The goal of NNM is to achieve improvement in nutritional status of Children from 0-6 years, Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers in a time bound manner.

The National Nutrition Mission (NNM) was set up with a three year budget of Rs.9046.17 crore commencing from 2017-18. The NNM is a comprehensive approach towards raising nutrition level in the country on a war footing. It will comprise mapping of various Schemes contributing towards addressing malnutrition, including a very robust convergence mechanism, ICT based Real Time Monitoring system, incentivizing States/UTs for meeting the targets, incentivizing Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) for using IT based tools, eliminating registers used by AWWs, introducing measurement of height of children at the AnganwadiCentres (AWCs), Social Audits, setting-up Nutrition Resource Centres, involving masses through Jan Andolan for their participation on nutrition through various activities, among others.

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The Budget 2021 gave a road map to boost the efforts already initiated to take the agenda of nutrition in a mission mode. Mission Poshan 2.0 brings together the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)—Anganwadi Services, Supplementary Nutrition Programme, PoshanAbhiyaan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and National Crèche Scheme.

The objective is to implement a comprehensive, unified strategy to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcome, with renewed focus on developing practices that nurture health, wellness and immunity to disease and malnutrition in the country.

Major impact
The programme through the targets aims to strive to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight babies.

NNM targets to reduce stunting, under- nutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively. Although the target to reduce Stunting is at least 2% p.a., Mission would strive to achieve reduction in Stunting from 38.4% (NFHS-4) to 25% by 2022 (Mission 25 by 2022).

It will create synergy, ensure better monitoring, issue alerts for timely action, and encourage States/UT s to perform, guide and supervise the line Ministries and States/UT s to achieve the targeted goals.

Mid-Day Meal Programme
The Mid-Day Meal Scheme, also known as School Lunch Programme, first began in Tamil Nadu. Launched by Ministry of Education the scheme looks at giving free meal to school-children on all working days.

A host of benefits were noticed besides helping children with nutrition needs and classroom hunger. Over time, the programme showed increase in school enrolment, better attendance and improved social skills among children belonging to all castes, and a steady decease in school drops out rates . Besides this, thanks to employment of women (bhohan mata), to cook these mid-day meals there has also been social empowerment.

So after its initial success in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, it was expanded to all parts of India after a landmark direction by the Supreme Court of India.

According to the order, “Every child in every place and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared midday meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8–12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days”

Tithi Bhojan
The Concept of “Tithi Bhojan”, a community participation programme was initiated by the State Government of Gujarat in mid- day meal programme by relying on the traditional practise of providing food to large number of people on special occasions such as festivals, anniversaries, birthdays, marriages, and days of national importance etc.

It seeks to involve the members of the community in the effort to provide nutritious and healthy food to the children. The members of the community may contribute/sponsor either utensils or food on special occasions/festivals. This is voluntary, and the people in the community may contribute supplementary food items sweet, namkeen or sprouts to the midday already being provided . Greater participation of religious and charitable institutions is also being promoted.

Benefits/Need of Tithi Bhojan

  • Sense of belonging among the community.
  • Supplementation of the nutritional value of MDM food.
  • Development of rapport with the local community.
  • Inculcation of the feeling of equity among the children of all communities.

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NGOs declare war against hunger amid COVID 19 challenges

The pandemic has pushed NGOs to combat nutritional goals like never before. There is a need to revise policies and goals to end hunger and malnutrition in India. Some NGOs share their concern with Karan Bhardwaj

Pic Courtesy: The Akshaypatra Foundation

Pandemic’s adverse impact on nutritional insecurities in India is now clear. The further dip in India’s rank in Global Hunger Index in just a year from 94 (2020) to 101 (2021) is alarming. In fact, several recent surveys make shocking revelations. About one-third of kids under five years of age are stunted in India. A third of them are underweight and almost two out of ten children are nutritionally wasted. Even though the current statistics are worrying, stakeholders believe that India must step up to revive its battle against malnutrition as a lot of progress was achieved before the pandemic.

NGOs LEAD THE SHOW

Given the scenario, various NGOs working in the domain of nutrition are launching aggressive campaigns to cover up the impact of COVID 19 on hunger and malnutrition. For instance, AkshayaPatra, being the implementing partner of the government’s flagship mid-day meals, is striving ‘to provide children a diversified and nutrient-rich staple to enhance their nutritional and health status.’ They are serving close to 2 million beneficiaries across 13 states and one union territory. “The aim is to improve the nutritional status of children in Classes I-VIII. Most of the children who benefit from this programme come from marginalised communities that are vulnerable to malnutrition. Their families cannot afford two square meals a day. For many of them, the mid-day meal is the only proper meal of the day,” SundeepTalwar, Chief Marketing Officer, The AkshayaPatra Foundation, tells The Bridge India.

Another NGO American India Foundation has launched Project Prabhat, supported by Hindustan Unilever Limited, since April 2021. Implemented in districts of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the project is expected to improve nutritional outcomes among adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and children under five years of age. They are doing it by increasing awareness on nutrition, promoting healthy nutrition habits and feeding practices and strengthening delivery of government services and programs related to nutrition. At local levels, NGO Udyama engages with the vulnerable sections in the rural areas with creative campaigns. “One of our flagship programmes include awareness generation through wall paintings, promoting nutritional garden at household level and developing nutritional crops at farmer’s field school point,” informs Pradeep Mohapatra from Udyama.

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Pic Courtesy: The Akshaypatra Foundation

CHALLENGES GALORE

At the ground level, the representatives of these NGOs admit that the existing challenges to meet nutritional goals got worsened due to the pandemic measures. Though there’s no clear data available to suggest the extent of negative impact on nutritional status of India, there have been interruptions at multiple levels. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis, which has resulted in a stark increase in inequalities. It disrupted the supply chains and triggered a largescale food security crisis. Many people lost livelihood opportunities and families were left vulnerable to acute hunger due to reduced access to adequate food.Children, in particular, were in a precarious situation due to this pandemic. They were affected by lack of education and social interactions as well as lack of food and nutrition with school closures keeping them away from mid-day meals,” elucidates Talwar.

INTEGRATED-APPROACH NEEDED

The next few months are going to be crucial in India’s battle against malnutrition. An integrated approach need to be developed to mitigate the crisis. “The problem of malnutrition is so complex that a single intervention may not lead to the expected outcomes. Interventions targeted to address malnutrition should be comprehensive in approach. Key social and behavior change messaging should cover importance of diet diversity, nutrition during pregnancy, early and exclusive breastfeeding, the appropriate quantity and quality of complementary foods, and preventive healthcare services, such as immunizations, and antenatal care. There is need to link agriculture, income-generating activities, natural resource management and nutrition,” points out Dr Mahesh Srinivas from America India Foundation.

Another work model that should continue in this space is through Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The implementation of mid-day meals highlight how various stakeholders can come together to beat malnutrition and hunger. “Over the last one and a half year, we have witnessed governments, corporates and NGOs working together to contribute to people food and nutrition security. Working with the Central Government, State Governments, corporate partners and individual donors, we have served over 178 million meals as a part of our COVID-19 relief feeding efforts across the length and breadth of India. It shows that partnerships are a key to the success of all the efforts channelized towards the welfare of vulnerable groups,” shares Talwar, citing some significant programmes and successes. There’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) to address nutrition insecurity in children under the age of 6, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The National Scheme for PM POSHAN in Schools brings children studying in pre-primary or Bal Vatikas in the ambit of the school feeding programme.

WHAT’S THE ROADMAP?

If India has to align itself with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to end all forms of malnutrition by 2025 for kids, some policy-based interventions are needed at district and local levels.“Ensuring sustainable access to nutritious food universally will require sustainable food production and agricultural practices. Over the next decade, India will have to adopt a combination of strategies to eliminate undernutrition, including behavioral change, nutrition supplementation, food fortification, bio-fortification and primarily, ensuring adequate intake of food,” says Srinivas.

Some radical steps also need to be adopted to spread awareness on nutrition. Talwar says there’s a need to promote nutritional literacy as a life skill. Imparting nutritional literacy in schools alongside mid-day meals will help children become food secure, food-safe and well-nourished.

Mohapatra from Udyama circles out how sustainable goals on food and nutrition are connected to community livelihoods and climate adaptations and responsive development in harmony with nature. “Both are well-connected with larger food systems, WASH, education, health &green energy especially clean cooking stoves and solar home lights,” he says.

Policymakers agree India’s hunger woes intersect with mass poverty, lack of hygiene, poor agriculture practices and absence of employment. There are no quick fixes but if correct measures are taken with a robust surveillance system, India would definitely be in a better position to manage food security by the end of this decade.

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