• Stambh Organization

Hunger in India: Problems and solutions

Updated: Jan 7



Hunger is a subjective concept. Its definition varies from person to person and depends on the perception and understanding of life requirements and goals, the availability of resources, socio-economic and cultural perspectives.

Hunger occurs when a person’s body lacks the nutrients needed to grow and develop a productive, active and healthy life. The term hunger also includes malnutrition, famine, hunger and appetite.

Hunger also means a country’s food shortages. In India, hunger is one of the key issues. Although people always think that hunger stems from lack of food, this is not entirely true, because hunger may also stem from poor food management and waste.

For example, although India produces enough food to feed its population, the country also has 25% of the hungry people in the world.In the Global Hunger Index (2018) ranking, India ranks 101st out of 116 countries. The country’s economic growth and changing demographics are also changing food demand patterns. Therefore, a holistic approach to food security needs to ensure that food is available, accessible, and nutritious to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in India.


KEY FACTORS OF HUNGER IN INDIA

  • India is home to the largest undernourished population in the world

  • 189.2 million people i.e. 14% of our population is undernourished

  • 20% of children under 5 are underweight

  • 34.7% of children under 5 years of age are stunted

  • 51.4% of women in the reproductive age (15-49 years) are anaemic[1]


CAUSES OF HUNGER

The direct cause of malnutrition in children depends on the underlying factors in their families and communities. These, in turn, depend on the basic factors for effective operation at the national level.

Some basic and reasonable causes of hunger are as follow:

· Poverty: When people are in poverty, they lack the resources to meet basic needs such as food, water and shelter.

· Conflict: Conflicts often cause people to leave their homes, so food production decreases or stops altogether. Conflict also disrupts the economy, so the market becomes unstable. This makes people who are already vulnerable more vulnerable to malnutrition.

· Gender Inequality: Although women produce most of the food in developing countries and are usually the primary caregivers of children, gender inequality in society leads to higher rates of malnutrition for women and girls.

Other causes of hunger are environmental, such as:

· Seasonal Changes: For people living in rural areas and relying on agriculture and livestock for food and income, seasonal changes in climate and food prices and availability can affect hunger. This leads to an annual hunger cycle, called the “hungry season”, which is devastating.

· Natural Disasters Just like conflict, natural disasters can destroy houses, land, jobs, and markets. Before communities can be rebuilt, people affected by natural disasters face a greater risk of malnutrition. Climate change has played a role in increasing natural disasters.

· Lack Of Access To Safe Water: Unsafe or scarce water can cause and exacerbate malnutrition. Without safe water, crops cannot grow normally, and people cannot survive or stay healthy. If there is a lack of any of these basic or potential factors or they fail to work properly, it is more likely to cause immediate problems, thereby increasing the risk of malnutrition.


FOOD WASTE/LOSS IN INDIA

In India, not every person gets enough food. Till now the news of deaths due to hunger keeps on coming. Malnutrition in children is a major problem. But the more food is lacking, the more we waste it. Food wastage is not the problem of India only, it is a worldly problem.

Nearly 40 per cent of the food produced in India is wasted every year due to fragmented food systems and inefficient supply chains — a figure estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). This is the loss that occurs even before the food reaches the consumer. There is also a significant amount of food waste generated in our homes. As per the Food Waste Index Report 2021, a staggering 50 kg of food is thrown away per person every year in Indian homes.[2]


HOW SHOULD INDIA REACH TO ZERO HUNGER CHALLENGE

  • There is an increasing need to design and develop more effective food production, processing, preservation and distribution integrated systems to meet the country’s changing food needs.

  • Rural infrastructure upgrades, post-harvest practical training for farmers to minimize losses, integration of small businesses into the value chain, organization of smallholders to join farmers' producer organizations, customized financial services, agricultural research investment, and last-mile marketing should also take action.

  • Various media should be used to raise public awareness of the issue of food waste.

  • The government should enact laws to punish companies that waste food in the supply chain and encourage the reuse and recycling of food.

  • Farmers are known as the first participants in the economy and must be supported to achieve the highest production and productivity, and must ensure a greater share of profits in the value chain.


CONCLUSION

The Indian government has developed several social safety nets to address these challenges: the public distribution system; Antodaya Anna Rozgar Yojana, noon meal plan; the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Security Act, and the landmark food security law recently enacted in 2013, The law aims to provide food subsidies for up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban households. Eradicating hunger involves investing in agriculture, rural development, decent work, social protection and equal opportunities. Now is the time for policymakers to consider the “right to be free from hunger” as a basic right.


Reference

[1]‘Hunger in India’ (India FoodBankingNetwork)<https://www.indiafoodbanking.org/hunger>accessed 29 October 2021 [2]India has a food wastage problem. Here’s how individuals can make a difference’ ( Indian Express, April 7, 2021, 8:49:21 am) accessed on 29 October 2021<https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/food-waste-index-report-india-coronavirus-hunder-index-7261909/>


About The Author

Siddhi Parmar

Research intern,

The Stambh Org.,India

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