Food & Health

Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It has been used in Africa, China and India as a staple food for thousands of years before rice and wheat became popular. Various cultures consume millets in many diverse ways – as a cereal, in soups, and as bread. In Eastern Europe millet, is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into a beverage, in Africa it is used to make bread, as baby food, and as uji, a thin gruel used as breakfast porridge.

While addressing a joint session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said “in due course the direct benefits transfer system will also cover wages and subsidies on food.” The enthusiasm for routing the food subsidy in the form of cash transfers has great political advantages but at the same time has serious fallouts in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The political advantage was spelt out by Rahul Gandhi the other day when he made it abundantly clear that cash transfers could win them not only 2014 but also the 2019 general elections.

As urban Indians, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of food available to us in our neighbourhood supermarkets – be it fresh, processed, or packaged. The growing tendency to consume convenience foods or hire full-time cooks in our urban households is estranging us from our food.
Most of us do not consider the larger impact of our food choices, and urban food trends are such that the transport, processing, packaging and distribution of the food we eat consumes enormous amounts of energy and resources.

In modern times, we favor factory and industrial processing, which gives us the convenience of a quick meal. Processing destroys the nutrients in food rather than increasing them, and makes our food more difficult to digest. Furthermore, industrial processing depends upon products that have a negative impact on our health, such as sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, colorants, synthetic vitamins and an extrusion processing of grains – which are the tools of the food processing industry.

Food is the input of life force to sustain life, and it is only with awareness and love that we can we bring about an ecological balance in our bodies

Fruits are amongst the healthiest, most delicious and natural foods that we can have. Our ancestors having eaten raw foods for almost two million years, our bodies have evolved to make best use of fruits, reminding us of our intricate yet simple and direct connection with the Earth.

Seed monopoly, patenting and arm-twisting by large transnational corporations in cahoots with government policies are engendering a new colonialism where we are losing our right to food sovereignty. The fact that 6 TNCs are controlling 60 to 80% of seeds, grain processing and trade in food crops is definitely leading to the disempowerment of the farmer as well as the city-dweller.

Milk, which was considered the perfect food, has now fallen from its pedestal.

In India, the land of Krishna, the cowherd-God, milk is sacred. Milk is used for worship in temples and as offering at prayer time in homes. Milk is equally venerated in other countries – notably the US and Holland, where the per capita consumption is the highest in the world.

The correlation between hunger and economic growth is robustly positive - the greater the economic growth, the greater the number of people going to bed hungry. This challenges the widely held view that economic growth pulls the poor out of poverty and hunger.

Hunger is keeping pace with economic growth. At a time when the economy is growing at an average of 7 to 8%, hunger too is on the rise.