In the era of 21st century with 7.7 billion people worldwide and 7.7 billion stomach to get fed is a grave concern for each and everyone residing in this planet Earth. According to the recent estimates 9.2% of the world population or slightly more than 700 million people were exposed to severe level of food insecurity in 2018 ,implying the reduction in the quantity of food consumed to the extent that they have possibly experienced hunger. More than 820 million people in the world were still hungry in 2018,underscoring the immense challenge of achieving Zero hunger target by 2030. In Asia despite of great progress in the last 5 years Southern Asia is still the sub region where the prevalence of undernourishment is highest at almost 15% followed by western Asia at over 12% where the situation is worsening. With the fact of undernourishment,it also depends on purchasing power ,the accessibility of food for all(quality food).

Child under nutrition continues to decline,but levels of adult obesity and anemia in women of reproductive age are increasing . Good nutrition is the lifeblood of sustainable development and drives the changes needed for a more sustainable and prosperous future. The lifelong impacts of poor nutrition on an individual physical and cognitive potential,this increase in the global undernourishment may strengthen the cyclical effects of poverty,reduced productivity malnutrition and disease for many vulnerable population.

WHO estimates have determined the global burden of food born disease is comparable to those of 3 major issues i.e HIV/AIDS,malaria and tuberculosis. An estimated of 600 million – almost 1 in 10 million people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die every year resulting in loss of 33 million healthy life years.Unsafe food is an increasing threat to human health.Children above 5 years of age carry 40% of the food born diseases burden with 1,25000 death every year.These food borne diseases strain healthcare systems and hinder national economies ,tourism and trade.

Food Loss & Food Waste

On the other hand, it is estimated that nearly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted. 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables, and 30 percent of cereals that are produced are lost due to inefficient supply chain management and do not reach the consumer markets.

While significant levels of food losses occur upstream, at harvest and during post-harvest handling, a lot of food is lost or wasted during the distribution and consumption stages. Some food is also wasted on the shelves and in the warehouses of food businesses either due to excess production, introduction of new products, labeling errors, or due to shorter remaining shelf life. Such food could be saved by timely withdrawing it from the distribution network, aggregating it and then redirecting it to the people in need.

Key facts about hunger in India

India is home to the largest undernourished population in the world
194.4 million people i.e. 14.5% of our population is undernourished.
20.8% of children under 5 are underweight.
37.9% of children under 5 years of age are stunted.
51.4% women in the reproductive age (15-49 years) are anemic.

India hailed the Nobel Prize win of economist Abhijit Banerjee for his work on poverty alleviation, on the other hand, India was ranked a dismal 102nd on the Global Hunger Index 2019. The paradox and irony of the two different news reports cannot be missed. The irony is that while we celebrate the achievement of a person of Indian origin on the subject of poverty, millions in India, especially children, continue to suffer from debilitating effects of hunger and malnourishment.

Hunger Index Report of the year 2019 was released recently by Welthungerhilfe, a German non-denominational and politically independent non-governmental aid agency. The report has been published since the last ten years in association with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. Hunger afflicts almost 821.6 million people worldwide as per its estimates, and nearly two billion people suffer from malnutrition worldwide.

Essentially, the Hunger Index measures the nutrition level of children on four parameters:

  1. Undernourishment: share of the population whose caloric intake is insufficient.
  2. Child Wasting: the share of children under the age of five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
  3. Child Stunting: the share of children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
  4. Child Mortality: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).

India’s Report Card

To understand what is wrong with India’s report card one needs to first ask, which section of the population is denied access to food, and does climate change also has a role to play in keeping people hungry? Simultaneously, it has to be understood what ails the policy decisions at the central and state level in India.

The Global Hunger Report of 2019 underlines a crucial development that since the early 1990s, the number of extreme weather-related disasters, such as storms, droughts, fires, and floods has increased manifold. This has resulted in reduced yields of major crops and has contributed to food price hikes and income losses.

As per the report finding, these disasters have disproportionately harmed low-income people and reduced their access of food. The hunger scenario in India has been classified as ‘Serious’ in the Welthungerhilfe report. The tribal population in India continues to be severely experiencing undernutrition.

In India, as many as 303 insect species are consumed by tribal communities in 10 states. Khajuri Poka or Date Palm Worm is a delicacy in Odisha’s Rayagada district, inhabited by Khond and Sora tribes. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations notes that insects will play a significant role in providing food security for the ever-increasing population globally, that is slated to reach nine billion in the next three decades.

In the 2019 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102nd out of 117 qualifying countries. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and national levels. The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a means to compare the levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to the areas of the world in greatest need of additional resources to eliminate hunger .

Some initiatives taken by great heroes-Social reforms

A man who sold his assets to feed the poor

Syed Gulab serving the poors

Syed Gulab, a 40-year-old spray painter working in Dubai, first came across the evil that is hunger, when he visited his niece who was admitted at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru. He was stunned by the fact that the child’s parents stayed hungry for days due to lack of money.

He witnessed similar instances with many other families at the hospital and decided to make a change. Syed Gulab serving food for free outside the Indira Gandhi Children’s hospital in Bengaluru. In 2016, he began working as a motor vehicle insurance agent in the city and took it upon himself to serve free lunch to all the patients and attendants outside the hospital.

However, since Gulab did not have enough money for it initially, he sold his bike and camera to rope in funds. He started off by cooking food at home and feeding around 100 people on a weekly basis. But today, after obtaining a kitchen space on rent the number has increased to more than 500. 

Since many who come for treatment at the hospital are from low-income families, affording both medicines and food becomes difficult. This is when Gulab’s initiative made a huge difference. A few months back, Gulab christened his work as the Roti Charity Trust

Adopting a preventive approach to malnutrition

Fight hunger foundation Educating mothers on nutrition food preparations through cooking demonstrations.

About 9.7 crore children out of 47.2 crore (as per the 2011 Census) are undernourished in India, data collected by the NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY) says.  Action Against Hunger, a Mumbai-based foundation has adopted the age-old proverb – ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ to root out poverty and starvation in the country, by working with anganwadis and public health centres.

The foundation is involved in a slew of activities like organising campaigns to raise awareness about malnutrition, counselling families on how to ensure proper nutrition for infants, as well as, children, and distributing food-for-free to underprivileged families.  A volunteer from Action Against Hunger counselling a family about nutrition.

The organisation has been working across 661 locations in India, which includes Govandi in Mumbai, Mokhada in Palghar, Dharni in Amravati, Baran in Rajasthan, Burhanpur and Dhar in Madhya Pradesh, to name a few.  Action Against Hunger’s flagship programme, ‘First 1,000 Days of Life’, takes care of the nutrition and well-being of the baby, starting from the time they are conceived till they become two years old. 

Dadi ki Rasoi

Anoop Khanna, the man behind ‘Dadi Ki Rasoi’, which feeds 500 people a day.

While enjoying a good cup of coffee or doughnuts at our favourite cafe, all of us have at least looked out the window and spilt words of wisdom on the lives of the needy and less fortunate. But how often have you did more than just talk and actually do something to help them?

Anoop spent over Rs 30,000 to set up the kitchen, but today, the fame of Dadi Ki Rasoi is getting him donations and support from many others individuals.

Anoop spends an average of Rs 2500 a day for the ingredients and raw material for the stall. “Shopkeepers give me raw materials at a discounted price. Many residents donate special meals on occasions like birthdays, wedding anniversaries and so on.

The primary reason why he decided to not give food for free but at a nominal charge of Rs 5 is-

“We wanted to provide quality food, which gives you a homely feel. We could have attempted to provide the food for free as well, but the reason for the price is that it gives dignity to a person who is buying the lunch. As far as the quality of food is concerned, I personally supervise the preparation. Moreover, since the cost is minimal, anyone can enjoy a meal without worrying about money,” he said

Feeding India since 2014

The NGO called ‘HUNGER HEROES’ serving food

When Ankit Kawatra found food being wasted at a wedding, which could have otherwise been consumed by over 5,000 people, he decided to do something about it. The 24-year-old quit his corporate job and started an NGO. Ankit Kawatra giving away excess food to those in need. With the simple idea of acting as a bridge between hunger and food wastage, Ankit founded Feeding India in 2014.

He created a 24/7 helpline, mobile application and email ID for the organisation, enabling people to establish contact and donate excess food. Once the intimation arrives, the Feeding India team collects it from a specific individual, wedding, or restaurant and later serves it to those who do not have access to food in shelter homes, schools and old age centres. Till date, Ankit’s organisation has served over 1.35 million meals with the help of 8,500 volunteers across 65 cities in India. In the process, he has saved over Rs 3.75 crore worth of food from being wasted. 

A Zomato delivery executive who is driving away hunger

‘HELP FOUNDATION’ provides books, stationery, clothes to the needy and teaches them

Have you ever wondered what happens to an order when cancelled on Zomato? Restaurants and eateries generally give away the cancelled order to the person in charge of delivering it. In some cases, either the delivery personnel eats it or sells it to make extra money.  However, Pathikrit Saha, fondly known as ‘Roll Kaku’ (uncle), delivered food from all the cancelled orders to underprivileged children in and around Kolkata. Thanks to him, several homeless and hungry kids get to eat a variety of dishes, starting from scrumptious biriyani, spicy rolls, to delicious pizzas.  Pathikrit Saha with children in a Mumbai.

However, his endeavour did not stop there. He wanted to find a long-term solution to safeguard the health and happiness of children.   With the assistance of a few friends, Pathikrit established an NGO by the name, Help Foundation and started teaching subjects like science, mathematics and English to underprivileged children in slums and on railway platforms. He even quit his job as a Zomato executive to focus on the betterment of children.

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