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The Future Food Challenge: Eat Right India Initiative

We’re faced with a global food crisis. How do we feed 9 billion people in 2050? How do we overcome one of the biggest challenges facing humanity? And how can we do it in a fair and sustainable way? Simply increasing crops and yields isn’t the solution.

To get there, we need to transform our food system. One of the most effective ways to achieve this, is by changing the way we eat. Shifting consumption to more sustainable, fair and nutritious diets will encourage other actors in the food system to take action. In this blog series, we dive into game-changing solutions in the food system. This week we dive into India’s approach in dealing with its future food challenge.

A Nutrition Crisis

There are not many countries in which the challenges related to the way we eat are more apparent than in India. Malnutrition is a huge problem with over a quarter of children suffering from stunting, and half of women and children suffering from iron deficiency. Meanwhile, diabetes and hypertension are also on the rise, with the obesity rate roughly doubling over the last decade. The costs of food-borne diseases have been estimated at around $28 billion per year. Fortunately, these developments have not gone unnoticed to the country’s policy makers and regulators. Even more promising is that the government is taking a systems-based approach.

The Eat Right India initiative

To tackle India’s future food challenge, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched the Eat Right India initiative. It is based on three key themes: eat safe, eat healthy and eat sustainable. The initiative aims to engage all stakeholders in the food system – from farmers, food businesses and consumers to research institutes and NGOs – in changing the culture and habits around eating. Existing initiatives were incorporated into the program, while new initiatives were piloted, tested, and refined along the way. Specific aims are to increase the variety of foods consumed, decrease the intake of sugar, salt, and oil, and eat as much seasonal and local food as possible.

To increase food safety, FSSAI is providing capacity building trainings for nearly 300,000 food safety inspectors and developing benchmarking and certification schemes for food businesses. On the healthy food side, specific efforts have been made to encourage the production and consumption of healthy and nutritious food. For example, a campaign to reduce the amount of salt, sugar and fat in food included television ads featuring famous Bollywood actors, a low-salt diet challenge, and major food companies taking pledges to offer healthier food options. Other efforts include encouraging producers to fortify food with micronutrients, and large public awareness campaigns launched at schools and campuses. The last pillar focuses on sustainability with initiatives that aim to reduce plastic and food waste and stimulate organic food production through the introduction of organic labels.

Eat Right India’s successes have not gone unnoticed. According to the World Bank, FSSAI is one of the first to re-envision its role from being only a regulator and enforcer to becoming the chief convenor and enabler of change. Last year the initiative was awarded the Food Systems Vision Prize by the Rockefeller Foundation, for envisioning a regenerative and nourishing food system by the year 2050. In the coming years, Eat Right India will broaden and deepen its initiatives, and involve India’s individual states.

NewForesight: Ensuring Future Proof Diets for All

At NewForesight, we are dedicated to drive sustainable change. We partner with leading organizations from the private, public and nonprofit sectors who are seeking game-changing solutions to some of the most critical sustainability challenges of our generation and turn them into market opportunities. We bring the right people together, challenge established thinking and shape coalitions that lead to structural change.

Curious about how we can support you in transforming the food systems and drive sustainable change? Contact our food systems expert Thomas Meijer or our food systems domain lead Laure Heilbron!