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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Nutrients for Growth

Simply consuming any type of food to fill an empty stomach is not enough to sustain life. Food should contain substances that build and nourish the body and these are called nutrients. A balanced diet, therefore, containing sufficient nutrients is essential for human consumption failing which people may become easy victims to various types of diseases like scurvy, rickets, Beriberi and pellagra. Due to poverty and lack of access to nutritious food, many people in Asia, Africa and South America are sick, stunted and face starvation. Nutritionists are advocating that a balanced diet does not mean simply quantity but the quality which contains necessary nutrients in order to promote the total health and well-being of a person. During the early years of independence, the government focused mainly on good (grain) production and proper distribution to various parts of the country, with an adequate level of buffer stock. When the Government of India introduced the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2010, it clearly spelled out that all children in the country are entitled to free and compulsory education till the completion of elementary that is Class VIII in a neighbourhood school. Free Mid-day Meal Scheme (MMS) meant to provide nutritious food to schoolchildren was a success. It is also observed that with the introduction of MMS, schoolchildren become healthier in the body as well as in mind and school attendance too improves much.

The well-being of a nation depends on the well-being of its citizens who in turn rely on proper nutrition. Towards the end of the last century in the World Food Summit held at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome in 1996, it was estimated that more than two billion people worldwide suffered from hunger and one-third of them were Indians. Desiring to bring such deficiency to the notice of common people, the National Nutrition Campaign was launched in 2018 and since then, it has become an annual affair in the month of September with an aim of making India malnutrition-free. The health of children depends on the health of mothers and obviously pregnant mothers, as well as children, need a nutritious diet for growth and development. Children and young kids, who do not have access to a balanced diet, cannot develop mentally and this, in the long run, has a lasting impact on their academic performance. On the other hand, those who are fed nutritious food improve their intellect. Based on these observations, the central government has given due importance to the mental health of children in the New Education Policy 2020.

Because of better health care and health facilities in the country, people live longer and are free of mental encumbrances. According to reports, by the year 2036, there will be nearly 23 crore senior citizens in India comprising about 15 per cent of the total projected population. This sizable category of people needs special attention and for which the Centre plans to start a nutrition campaign scheme for them, keeping in mind those with severe malnutrition. As per the plan, hot and nutritious food would be served to deserving elderly citizens through 55,000 centres across the country with a budget of Rs 39.60 crore at the initial stage. Unfortunately, during the Covid-19 period, all the activities including the nutrition campaign were greatly affected. The government is, however, optimistic that it will be able to accomplish its mission.

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