The Global Hunger Index of 2020 ranks India at the 94th position among 107 countries of the world, making hunger and malnutrition some of the greatest challenges that the country is facing. Reports suggest that maternal and child malnutrition contribute towards 15 percent of the country's total disease burden.
It is to create awareness about the importance of nutrition and to stay protected against the various diseases and disorders caused by malnutrition that the American Dietetic Association (now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) started the commemoration of the National Nutrition Week in the year 1973. This has been adopted by many countries including India. National Nutrition Week is observed in the country from 1st to 7th September each year since 1982. A number of government initiatives focusing on alleviating nutritional deficits, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies, and combating hunger are expected to be launched during this week.
A healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet is the foundation to good health. Apart from the macro nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, the body requires a number of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and water to function efficiently. While hunger and lack of steady food supply may affect the nutritional status of those in rural areas, urban areas are assailed by diseases and disorders caused by lack of balanced nutrition and lack of awareness.
Obesity, diabetes and a number of lifestyle disorders are also caused by nutritional imbalance. In fact, according to reports from 2019, India is home to nearly 77 million adult diabetics; this is second highest in the entire world. This brings the importance of National Nutrition Week into sharp focus. It has now become impetrative that all Indian citizens, non-governmental organisations, and corporations (through CSR initiatives) take up the responsibility to support the nutritional development of the country and help combat hunger. At the same time, this week is also time to shine the focus on two important professions – that of the farmer and of the nutritionist.
In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of nutrition in the context of the country's development. "Yatha Annam Tatha Mannam", he said. This means that the intellectual development of the nation is directly linked to the quality and balance of the food consumed by us. The PM also called upon the country to observe September as Poshan Maah or Nutrition Month.
Each year, the government announces a theme for the National Nutrition Week. This theme is derived from the contemporary needs of Indian society and its nutritional needs. In 2020, the theme of the National Nutrition Week was 'Eat Right, Bite by Bite'. Maintaining a healthy diet and building up a robust immunity are likely to find much importance in the current pandemic conditions.