With annual gross domestic product growth rates nearing 7% and a population of 1.3 billion people, 65% of whom are younger than 35, India is among the world’s fastest-growing economies. In the coming decades, however, it will be difficult for India to sustain inclusive and sustainable growth, unless it invests in an educated, healthy, and nutritionally secure population.
Malnutrition is a serious public health problem in India: 38% of Indian children under five are stunted and over 50% of women of reproductive age are anaemic. India faces the double burden of undernutrition and obesity: the cases of overweight adults are now almost equal to the number of underweight adults. The biggest driver of this burden is the poor quality of food.
The Indian population, both in rural and urban areas, experiences low consumption of fruits and vegetables, whilst there are increasing trends in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and diets which elevate cholesterol (essentially unhealthy fats) and sodium (too much salt). This is reflected in an increase in overweight rates among the adult population, from 12% in 1999 to 20% in 2016.
These trends are also reflected among children and adolescents shifting from 1.9% to 6.8% respectively over the same time period. Changing these trends will require transforming behaviours and choices of both consumers and businesses.
Improving the Indian food system will be key to transforming the current nutritional challenges that India is facing.
GAIN has been working in India since 2003. For over 15 years, we have been working to encourage and promote the implementation of Large-Scale Food Fortification programmes. Moving forward, we wish to contribute to improving the food system in India by enhancing the quality of diets of the population at large, with a focus on addressing the micronutrient deficiencies of the most vulnerable.
We work with a variety of partners – including the Government of India, state governments, civil society organisations, businesses, and development partners - to make healthier food choices more desirable, accessible and affordable and build a healthy society in India.