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India’s National Food Security Bill Will Not Promote Nutrition

“After decades of sponsoring an ineffective child nutrition program, [India's] Union government is on the verge of launching a National Food Security Bill (NFSB), which undermines India’s fight against malnutrition,” a LiveMint editorial states. “Despite giant strides in reducing both hunger and poverty over the past two decades, India has struggled to rein in malnutrition,” the editorial says, adding, “Three key factors explain this paradox.” The editorial continues, “First, India’s lopsided food policy has made cereals widely available at the cost of other foods”; “Second, the low social status of women makes them ill-nourished and results in an extraordinarily high proportion of low birth weights, raising the risks of both childhood stunting and adult obesity”; and, “Third, open defecation and high population density create a perfect storm for infectious diseases to thrive, inhibiting children’s ability to absorb nutrients.”

“We need a radical overhaul of our community outreach programs to meet the needs of the very young, pay close attention to gender-friendly policies and women’s health, invest in preventive public health services such as clean water and sanitation, provide farm incentives to promote food diversity, and launch an effective nutrition education campaign to fight the burden of malnutrition,” the editorial states. Noting the NFSB would spend four times the amount of money annually recommended by The Lancet to fight global undernutrition, the editorial concludes that the initiative will not provide “any significant nutritional return … [because t]he only return from NFSB will be political” (6/19).