Since the beginning of human being’s transformation till homo-sapiens, food has been an integral part of its survival. Twenty first century is in its teens but unfortunately the health scenario is not becoming healthier! The government, academia, and health institutions, media, NGOs, socio-economic initiatives are striving really hard to make India a nutrition-packed nation. Each passing day one can read many articles on nutrition. Are we resilient enough to wipe-out the ever-existing status of malnutrition in our community and society at large?
Last few years, multi-faceted approaches and initiatives such as system strengthening, decentralized planning, nutrition in mission-mode, out-of-the-box training methodologies, web-based monitoring, empowering the panchayat bodies, e-communication have been the fore-runners in bringing changes in the nutritional status. Community had been the centre of all the above-mentioned approaches and initiatives. Nevertheless, perseverance of malnutrition is unshaken and unbeatable. Myths and misconceptions thrive.
Very recently, selected rural/tribal/urban households are being taken up by various state governments and development partner organizations as interventions to address malnutrition by demonstrating and growing kitchen gardens at Anganwadi centers. Stakeholders such as Department of Agriculture, Horticulture are the newly recognized and active partners of Department of Women and Child Development in recent times.
As the consumption of IFA tablets among pregnant women has not increased in last many years irrespective of huge concerted efforts, similarly the dietary habits of community and society at large is worst affected.
‘Habits die hard’ is an age-old saying but still holds true in the households of rural and urban India. The academia, government and various change agents are happy to see the green, brown, yellow, red, and orange plantations in the households of beneficiaries but then that does not ensure change in dietary habits of the intended population. Essential components within the household/community kitchen such as-
(a) preparation prior to cooking for the household inmates
(b) cooking methodologies
(c) food processing methodologies
(d) food preservation
(e) food adulteration
(f) hygiene and sanitation in the kitchen premises and surroundings
are yet to be explored, pilot-tested, and process documented for scaled implementation and wider learning. Each of the above components is the potential contributor/s to the nutrition of human beings, directly or indirectly and independently or in a combined manner.
Kitchen Garden grown in a villager’s /slum dwellers /city dweller’s household leading to a ‘nutrient, clean and healthy kitchen’ shall enrich family’s dietary habits and health such as – diet diversity in family meals, intake of balanced diet by each member of the family, meal pattern as per the age-group, low-incidence of diseases etc. Improved dietary habits and behaviors shall fast track the war to prevent the incidences of malnutrition and make it easier to bring down the bar of maternal and child mortality in Indian population in coming years. Moreover, associated effects of digitization, real-time monitoring mechanisms, unique communication tools, decentralized planning and innovative research techniques will have a compounding effect towards making of a nutrient-rich and more aware family, neighborhood community and society of India.
Ms. Pragnya Das