An inter-ministerial committee has observed that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have aggravated the silent crisis of undernutrition in India.
The draft report, prepared by an inter-ministerial committee, has observed that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have aggravated the silent crisis of undernutrition in India. It was submitted in October 2021 and is currently under the Centre’s consideration.
Composition of the committee –
- The inter-ministerial committee includes officials from:
- the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Distribution,
- the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,
- the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and
- the Ministry of Education.
- It also included scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Key observations –
- Pandemic aggravated the crisis of undernutrition in India — The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have aggravated the silent crisis of undernutrition in India.
- Protein rich food items be legally included in meals —
- It recommended that protein-rich food items as well as micronutrients be legally mandated in meals given through food safety programmes in schools and anganwadis.
- Protein-rich food items – eggs, nuts and legumes;
- Micronutrients – calcium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamin A.
- This could be done by revising Schedule II of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
- Schedule II of the NFAS lays down nutritional standards for government food safety programmes like mid-day meal, PM POSHAN and Integrated Child Development Services scheme.
- Currently, it quantifies nutrition per meal in terms of calories and protein only. However, the inter-ministerial panel has called for micronutrients also to be taken into account.
- The report states that those who do not consume eggs may be provided double the proposed quantity of nuts and seeds.
Recommended new standards of kilocalories and protein per meal –
- It recommended new standards of kilocalories and protein per meal, along with fixing proposed intake of micro-nutrients for all categories of beneficiaries.
- It also recommended the food items required to achieve those standards.
- According to the cost implications of the recommendations, the cost per meal in lower primary classes will be Rs 9.6 and Rs 12.1 in upper primary. This excludes milk and fruits. Currently, the cooking costs are Rs 4.97 and Rs 7.45 respectively.