- World Food Day is marked on October 16 every year
- On the occasion of the day, WFP released a report - Cost of a Plate of Food
- A basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people: Report
New Delhi: How much would you expect to pay for the most basic plate of food? It’s something that many of us might not have calculated and have always taken for granted. In New York State for example, ingredients for a simple meal – perhaps a soup or a simple stew – costs just US$1.26 or .06 percent of someone’s income. Contrast this with India, where a shopper would have to spend US$7.37 or 3.49 per cent of person’s salary for the simple food plate, which is 5.85 times more than that of USA.
This is a reality of many countries across the globe where a simple meal such as rice and beans cost the most as a share of their income and that is exactly what the third edition of United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) Cost of a Plate of Food report (formerly called Counting the Beans) released today (October 16) on the occasion of World Food Day, highlights.
The report also states that now COVID-19 has added another layer to the challenges faced by most vulnerable groups and has further worsened the situation. The report states that a basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic joins conflict, climate change and economic troubles in pushing up levels of hunger around the world. It also states that the pandemic’s effects include mass unemployment, as well as disrupted trade and supply chains resulting in localised food price increases, all of which contribute to making food more unaffordable to millions of people in the world.
The recent consumer inflation (or retail inflation) rates in India stood at 7.34% in September, the highest since January, furled by rising food prices. Food inflation – or the rate of increase in food prices came in at 10.68 per cent compared to a rise of 9.05 per cent in the previous month. Prices of edible oil, meat and vegetables rose in a range of 13-21 per cent from a year before, the data showed.
Economists said food prices soared due to a pickup in demand ahead of the festival season that runs from October to March, and supply-side disruptions caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in the year 2019. Beyond this, WFP report estimates that the lives and livelihoods of up to 270 million people will be under severe threat in 2020 unless immediate action is taken to tackle the pandemic.
Talking about the report findings and how coronavirus has further worsened hunger crisis across the globe, WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley said,
This new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger. It’s the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects. Their lives were already on the edge – prior to the coronavirus pandemic we were looking at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – and now their plight is so much worse as the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe.
Speaking in the context of India and the food affordability, Basanta Kumar Kar, Recipient of 2019 Global Nutrition Leadership Award also known as Nutrition Man of India said,
It is a well-established fact that food and nutrition are linked to peace, harmony and stability at household and society level. Every pandemic has differential impact and differential recovery pattern and this is not an exception to this novel pandemic. This novel pandemic is signaling an impending nutrition famine. It has compounded the food insecurity among the multiple marginalised groups. The cost has a bearing on availability, accessibility and consumption of safe and nutritious diets specifically by the women and children who are THE hardest hit. People in general need calorie, protein and micronutrient rich food to prevent infection, morbidity, mortality and increase immunity. The pregnant woman needs safe and nutritious diets including one additional meal during the pregnancy. But all this comes at a cost price and if people are not able to afford it, they will not take it as a result the cost has a bearing on the newborn; the new generation.
Further suggesting ways in which India can control the cost of most basic food items, Mr Kar added,
What we need is government and civil society organisations working together to realize the goals of India’s Poshan Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) and move towards making India ‘Atmanirbhar Poshan (Nutritional Self Reliance)’ country – this should be our country’s top investment agenda. We should work towards sustainable local food system that is climate smart, culture and context specific, inclusive, caring and accountable. As far as food costing is concerned, I think, in principle, the costing of food need to consider nutrition elements being provided by the food items. If it is of higher nutritional value and can address issues like malnutrition in all forms – calorie, protein and micronutrient inadequacy, then it should be made available at the lowest cost possible so as benefit of that food item can be taken by all sections of the societies.
Mr Kar further said that though COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on the marginalised section of the society, but he doesn’t think more people are going hungry in the pandemic as they are unable to afford food. He added,
India’s National Food Security Act 2013 mandates food and nutrition in a life cycle approach and make food as part of rights. Unlike many other countries, India’s commitment to the Right to Food and Nutrition is a big solace during this pandemic time. The National Food Security Act 2013 includes three major food and nutrition entitlement programs such as Targeted Public Distributing System(TPDS), Mid-Day Meal(MDM) Program and ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) which covers bulk of India’s population. With good governance and good policy, these three food entitlement programs are important lifeline for India’s pandemic hit population. Going beyond the provisions under these three food and nutrition program, the national and state governments in India decided to provide free food grains, advance rationing, supplementary nutrition at doorsteps benefiting the children, women and lactating mothers, provision of mid-day meals to school children or food security allowances in lieu of that, increasing monthly quota of subsidised food grains, providing financial support to the vulnerable with monthly allowances to daily wage labourers using Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) etc. Special hunger relief camps and community kitchens are being set up for most distressed people and migrants to provide them hot cooked meal and other necessities.
Talking about COVID-19 scenario and how it has disturbed the food system along with the steps Indian government should take IN future to help people in need with the continuous food supply, Bishow Parajuli, United Nations World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in India said,
Globally, unfortunately, the COVID-19 has shocked the food system. In the last few months, there has been some increase in prices but the supply aspect has not changed much. There was some disruption in some areas but overall, like in India, the food has always been available. Even during the lockdown, the transport facilities were available for the delivery of essential services. To continue with the smooth production, we need to provide farmers with fertilisers and agricultural inputs. And for distribution, the transport system is the key and we need to keep it running. Due to COVID-19, people lost jobs which led to loss of income and reduced purchasing power. People are unable to buy food and that is the problem government and other organisations need to help with on an urgent basis. In India, the government announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) that provides free food grains to people and was extended till November end. It was a quick and excellent move which really helped people. But going forward, we may need to continue this support for few more months.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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