With COVID-19 cases reducing in the country, schools are opening again. The society must focus on the nutrition of children to ensure that they get ready to take on new challenges after emerging from the confines of their homes.
India faces multiple problems of under-nutrition and overweight/obesity coexisting with deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and several vitamins. This triple burden of malnutrition has to be identified, understood and addressed. In the case of girls, their nutritional status impacts not only their health but that of generations to come. Malnutrition can put children and adolescents at risk of compromised immune function, thus making them vulnerable to infections.
It is essential to look beyond minimum calorie requirements and ensure children consume a balanced diet with adequate diversity. The balanced diet provides children with a solid foundation for an active and healthy life. Micronutrients are essential for production of enzymes, hormones and other substances for good immune function, healthy growth and development. To combat hidden hunger, affordable, accessible and diverse food sources must be made available across India. Among urban and affluent groups, indulgence in frequent munching of high-calorie snacks and sweetened beverages that are devoid of beneficial nutrients should be discouraged.
The Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN)
The mid-day meal programme in its new avatar caters to students of pre-primary levels of government and government-aided primary schools along with primary and upper primary schoolchildren. The PM POSHAN envisages providing 450 Kcal energy and 12g of protein for primary; 700 Kcal and 20g protein for upper primary children through diet diversity.
In addition, monitoring haemoglobin levels of schoolchildren, appointment of nutritional experts to ensure the haemoglobin and growth status are continuously monitored. Special provisions for nutritional items for children in districts with high prevalence of anaemia.