M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has been working on food and nutrition security as its core intervention for several decades. In India, the first week of September is celebrated as National Nutrition Week (NNW), and offers opportunity for nutrition advocacy among as many households as possible. Intensive outreach on (mal)nutrition awareness is organised among tribal and rural populations, particularly between September 1 and 7 every year.
This year too, MSSRF kick-started the nutrition awareness programme in Odisha, and the activities will continue until the end of September. Recommendations are given to the communities to improve their intake of indigenous foods since are easily available and accessible in the region. Indigenous foods are unique in the flavours and are very nutritious, and communities are reminded of these facts during NNW as we ‘Celebrate a World of Flavours’ theme.
40 participants including Community Hunger Fighters (CHFs) and leading male and female farmers actively participated during the NNW events. Dr Shyam Sundar Panigrahy (Consultant – Nutritionist & Dietician) attended as Chief Guest. In addition, Mrs Mamata Mohanty (District Program Manager – NOP) and Mr Akash Kumar Parida (District Coordinator – CMAM Programme) participated as guest of honour. Dr M M Hossain, Director of the Biju Patnaik Tribal Agro-biodiversity Centre, presided over the programme.
Dr Shyam Sundar Panigrahy explained about the linkages of nutrition and health, emphasising on locally available foods for better health outcome. He also said that one should consume three to four full meals everyday by including different colours of foods that provide different nutrients required for good health. Mrs Mamata Mohanty focused on the importance of breastfeeding, complementary food, and healthy eating habits for the optimal physical and mental growth of children.
Mr Akash Kumar Parida spoke on food taboos that have prevailed in the community, obstructing consumption of these items and resulting in poor diet diversity and fewer nutrient-dense foods. He shared that pregnant and lactating women should consume one extra meal to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy, and increase their body weight during pregnancy as well as during lactation for adequate quantity of breast milk. This will protect her health and that of her child, he added.
Following this event, there are plans to organise series of different awareness programmes at the cluster level to sensitise the tribal and rural populations about nutrition in line with Rashtriya Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month). The objective is to convert Jan Andolan to Jan Bhagidari (convert people’s movement to people’s participation). The central theme of Poshan Maah 2022 is Mahila aur Swasthya and Bacha aur Shiksha (Women & Health, and Children & Education).