Panel calls for boosting protein, nutrients in government meal programs: Basics Explained

Citing alarming undernutrition in Indian inter-ministerial committee has recommended that protein-rich food items like eggs, nuts and legumes, as well as micronutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamin A be legally mandated in meals given through food safety programmes in schools and anganwadis by revising Schedule II of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

The committee noted that  NFHS-5 survey results show a worrying trend in the increase in malnutrition and anaemia in many states and persistent levels of undernutrition.

It recommended new standards of kilocalories and protein per meal, along with fixing the proposed intake of micronutrients for all categories of beneficiaries, and the food items required to achieve those standards.


While the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) covers children aged six months to six years and pregnant/lactating mothers, students in lower primary classes, upper primary classes in government and government-aided schools are beneficiaries of the PM Poshan scheme.

The enactment of the National Food Security Act, (NFSA) 2013 on July 5, 2013, marks a paradigm shift in the approach to food security from welfare to a rights-based approach. The Act legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System. About two-thirds of the population, therefore, is covered under the Act to receive highly subsidized foodgrains. As a step towards women empowerment, the eldest woman of the household age 18 years or above is mandated to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards under the Act.

The entitlements referred to in Sections 4,5 and Section 6 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 are provided under the Supplementary Nutritional Programme of Anganwadi Services of the Central Government to pregnant women and lactating mothers till six months after child birth, and to every child in the age group of six months to six years.

The National Family Health Survey(NFHS-5) contains detailed information on population, health, and nutrition for India and its States and Union Territories.

  • The Under 5 and infant mortality rate(IMR) has come down in 18 states and union territories.
  • But in parallel 16 states recorded an increase in underweight and severely wasted under 5 children among 22 states that were surveyed during the first phase of the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5)
  • Wasting percentage increased in under 5 children in 12 states and UTs in comparison to NFHS-4. The data showed a rise in wasting in Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Lakshadweep, while Maharashtra and West Bengal showed no change
  • 13 states and UTs of the 22 surveyed registered a surge in the percentage of stunted children(low height for their age)under five years of age in comparison to 2015-16. These states are Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Lakshadweep and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
  • On the contrary the NFHS-5 also showed that 20 states and UTs saw rise in the percentage of overweight children under 5 years of age. The latest round of the survey reported an increased share of men and women who were overweight or obese. Share of obese men increased in 19 of the 22 states and Union territories for which the data was available. The share of obese women increased in 16. Among major states and UTs, the share of obese women increased the most in Karnataka, by 6.8 percentage points, and the share of obese men increased the most in Jammu and Kashmir, by 11.1 percentage points.
  • According to the NFHS-5 (2019-20), sex ratio of the total population (females per 1,000 males) increased in 17 states and UTs in comparison to NFHS-4 (2015-16). And Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh saw a drop in sex ratio of the total population.
  • The neonatal mortality rate (NMR) (per 1,000 live births) dropped in 15 states and UTs in comparison to NFHS-4 (2015-16).
  • while the infant mortality rate (IMR) and the under-five mortality rate(UMR) fell in 18 states and UTs, the NFHS-5 report indicated.
  • Among major states, the share of anaemic men and women was the highest in West Bengal, while Gujarat had the highest share of anaemic children.
  • There is considerable improvement in vaccination coverage among children age 12-23 months across all states and UTs.
  • The share of the population living in households with electricity increased in 19 states; the share of the population living in households with improved sources of drinking-water increased in 20 states; the share of the population living in households with improved sanitation facilities increased in 21 states; and the share of households using clean cooking fuel increased in all 22 states and UTs.


For several decades India was dealing with only one form of malnutrition– undernutrition. In the last decade, now faces the double burden which includes both over- and undernutrition,

  What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. The term malnutrition covers 2 broad groups of conditions.

One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age);It is is associated with an underdeveloped brain, poor learning capacity, and increased nutrition-related diseases.), wasting (low weight for height);It is associated with decreased fat mass. Also known as wasting syndrome, it causes muscle and fat tissue to waste away.), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).

Children who are already undernourished can suffer from protein-energy malnutrition (PEM).

Two types of PEM are— Kwashiorkor and Marasmus.


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