Nutrition does not end with food on a plate. There is a knowledge base around it that is being ignored. In the Right to Food Campaign, I was one of the first in Odisha to define food as safe, diverse and culturally appropriate. I was never ready to accept anything as food.
- To be safe food should be cultivated in a healthy soil, bereft of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, using biological inputs that are safe, a product of indigenous seeds, harvested and stored in a safe atmosphere, and distributed locally as fresh items.
- The crops should be suited to the soil and agro-climatic zone. The natural agricultural cycle must be followed.
- The food must be diverse to suit body needs as per livelihood and lifestyle needs. All the tastes of sweet, bitter, sour, and astringent must be represented.
- Meat, milk and eggs must be compassionately produced (meat can never be) without torturing animals and without use of antibiotics, vaccines, hormones and steroids. There are many organizations engaged in what they call organic agriculture but they leave the birds and animals to their fate in the hands of modern veterinarians.
- The food must be properly cooked with safe oils and condiments, using healthy food combinations and in adequate proportions to suit age and gender.
- The culture around agriculture and food consumption that existed for centuries must be restored.
- The people who consume food must ensure good gut and microbial health, with good energy and vitality, to be able to enjoy, absorb and digest the food. The current practices of drugging pregnant women, unnecessary cesarean sections, medication of breastfeeding mother, drugging and vaccinating infants and children, do not provide the opportunity to inherit a healthy microbiome and maintain good health. An unhealthy population cannot receive nutrition in food. The entire exercise goes waste if this vital aspect is ignored.
The nutrition campaigns must keep the above in mind. What sounds complicated today was a habit and natural in the past. Years of practice and knowledge sharing had made it a part of our lives. The system was purposely broken down to facilitate the Green Revolution and modern medicine.