In order to influence habit, Soumya Swaminathan, chair of the MSSRF, emphasised the necessity for extensive training on nutrition and food awareness.
M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, recently launched the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) programme to raise awareness of and promote millets and backyard kitchen gardens among students, farmers and Biodiversity Management Committee members.
Thiru R Sakkarapani, the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies, Consumer Protection, and Price Control for the Tamil Nadu government, launched the LiFE initiative. In his remarks, he emphasised the government's efforts to ensure food and nutritional security by distributing two kilogrammes of finger millet (Ragi) to all ration card holders in the Nilgiris and Dharmapuri districts starting in May 2023 through the Public Distribution System (PDS). He pointed out that because there is little millet production in Tamil Nadu, consumption has also decreased, but the government is taking steps to get millets into people's diets. “School children across Tamil Nadu will now benefit from the breakfast scheme from June 3rd ,” he announced, and “We will now plan to include at least one millet-based meal per week in ICDS, mid-day meal and breakfast scheme.”
Nutritional information about millets and pseudo-millets was provided by Achalender Reddy IFS (Retd), Chairperson, National Biodiversity Authority, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Government of India. He also emphasised the importance of biological conservation in order to stop the loss of biodiversity as well as the extinction of food species in India, particularly millets.
The issue of obesity and undernourishment in India's urban and rural populations, as well as the rise of non-communicable diseases including diabetes and hypertension, were discussed by Soumya Swaminathan, chair of the MSSRF. She emphasised the need of eating a balanced diet, noting that a recent National Institute of Nutrition survey revealed that just 10% of Indians consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.
“The problem of inadequate diets is not only with the poor, but also with the middle and upper classes of society, and therefore massive programmes on food and nutrition awareness is required to bring about behaviour change.”
Other speakers included Shekar Kumar Niraj IFS, PCCF and Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board; B Balaji IFS, Secretary of the National Biodiversity Authority; and J Radhakrishnan, Additional Chief Secretary, Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection Department, Government of Tamil Nadu.
The group was welcomed by GN Hariharan, Executive Director of MSSRF, and Oliver King, Director of Biodiversity at MSSRF, presented research on millets that MSSRF has conducted in Kolli Hills, Tamil Nadu.