While Kerala has made rampant strides towards achieving food security, there is a need for greater focus on ensuring nutrition security among all cross-sections in the State.
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The critical aspect was discussed threadbare by policymakers and analysts during a seminar on ‘Food Security in Kerala’ organised in connection with the Keraleeyam festival in Thiruvananthapuram on November 2nd. The speakers advocated reorienting the State’s aspirations from a ‘hunger-free Kerala’ to a ‘malnutrition-free Kerala’.
Neetu Sharma, Co-Director of the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, pointed out that the State, which was ranked 11th in the ‘State Ranking Index for NFSA (National Food Security Act) last year, has been witnessing an increase in malnutrition among children less than five years and women.
The prevalence (in %) of stunting, wasting, underweight and anaemia among children aged below five years have increased to 23.4, 15.8, 19.7 and 39 during the National Family Health Survey conducted in 2019-20 when compared to that in 2015-16 (when the correspondent statistics were nearly 19, 17, 18 and 36 respectively). Anaemia has also been on the rise among women, including those pregnant, aged between 15 and 49 years.
Citing the ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ 2023 report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation recently, Madhura Swaminathan, Head of the Economic Analysis Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, pointed out a healthy diet in the country costs approximately 3.066 purchasing power parity (PPP) dollar per person per day and 1.043 billion people or nearly 74% of the total population could not afford it.
Under such circumstances, the people of Kerala have been faring well compared to others in the country due to higher income levels. While a person in the State had to spend less than 20% of his/her daily wages for a recommended diet, the respective proportions in Bihar and Gujarat are 66% and 67%.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister G.R. Anil, who presided over the session, said the government has given top priority to ensure no person remained hungry in the State. However, notwithstanding its achievements in public distribution, the low food production has remained a drawback in achieving food security. Kerala has been producing only 14% of its food grain requirement.
In a pre-recorded address, Glenn Denning, founder director of the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice programme in Columbia University, pointed out that food security “would require changes in how and where we produce, distribute and consume food within a dynamic food system. The supplied food must be sufficient and accessible to all people at all times. It must also be nutritious and safe,” he said.
Former Union Minister of State for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas, State Planning Board member K. Ravi Raman, Tamil Nadu Planning Commission vice chairman J. Jeyaranjan, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Kancheepuram MLA, C.V.M.P. Ezhilarasan, Kerala State Food Commission chairman K.V. Mohan Kumar and Consumerfed chairman M. Mehaboob were also among those who participated.