Food Security is equal to life security : CSR needs wise and educated minds

Food Security is equal to life security : CSR needs wise and educated minds

Increased food security and access has led to fewer malnourished and anemic Indians in 2017 than in the preceding decade, but India needs to do much more to meet its nutrition goals, the 2018 Global Nutrition Report (GNR 2018) has shown. India is not on track to achieve any of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) nine nutrition goals–reduce child overweight, wasting and stunting, diabetes among women and men, anemia in women of reproductive age and obesity among women and men, and increase exclusive breastfeeding–by 2025, says the report. 

According to the National Sample Survey data of the 66th round (2009-10), Average dietary energy intake per person per day was 2147 Kcal for rural India and 2123 Kcal for urban India. The proportion of households with calorie intake below 2160 Kcal per consumer unit per day (80% of 2700 Kcal, a level used in NSS tabulation for comparisons) was 62% for rural and 63% for urban households in the bottom decile class. The proportion declined progressively with MPCE level. In the next decile class, it was about 42.5% in the rural sector and 45% in the urban sector. The proportion was only about 2.5% for the top 10% of the population ranked by MPCE. Estimates of average calorie intake for India from six quinquennial surveys of consumer expenditure including the 66th round show a decline in average calorie intake between 1972-73 and 2009-10. The overall decline is substantially greater for rural than for urban India and appears to have been sharper in the period since 1993-94 (50th round), especially in the urban sector. The proportion of households with calorie intake below the level of 2700 Kcal per consumer unit per day has grown more or less steadily since 1993-94: from under 52% in rural India to nearly 62%, and from 57% in urban India to about 63%.

The question arises is that can businesses in the country with their CSR initiative, contribute in speeding up the process of eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition?  Corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenditure by India Inc towards eradication of hunger, poverty and promotion of healthcare and sanitation took a back seat in 2016-17 as the total spend on the activity fell Rs 549 crore or 18.6 percent from Rs 2,944 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 2,394 crore in 2016-17. While India Inc’s overall CSR expenditure for 2016-17 rose 7 per cent to Rs 9,034 crore, activities such as promotion of education, vocational skill development, environmental sustainability and slum development got precedence from Indian companies during the year.

This is exactly where CSR can step in and make a difference, make each grain count. India is the only country in the world with a legislated CSR. The new law mandates that all companies, including foreign firms, which either has a net worth of Rs 500 crore or a turnover of Rs 1,000 Crore or net profit of Rs 5 Crore, needs to spend at least two percent of its average net profit for the immediately preceding three financial years on corporate social responsibility activities. Shining examples of such efficient CSR can be seen below:

1)  Chennai: Save the Children launched Aaharam (an extension of the Mission Nutrition was launched by its partner GlaxoSmithKline). This project raised awareness about malnutrition causes among mothers, families and communities. It was carried out across 20 notified slums of Chennai and 15 villages in the Tiruvallur district.

Activities included regular malnutrition screening of children (especially between ages 3-6); Community Case Management of undernourished children; nutrition education – with regard to feeding practices of young children; follow-up on malnutrition-afflicted children; improving community access to nutritious food through locally available food items.

2)  Maharashtra: Save the Children (in partnership with the Rajmata Jijau Mother – Child Health and Nutrition Mission of Government of Maharashtra) implemented its Village Child Development Centre (VCDC) model to treat malnourished children. This scheme works at 30 Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centers with support from local Anganwadi workers in tribal areas in the Thane district to screen the young for malnutrition. The malnourished get regular meals, treatment for infections, as well as receive anti-parasitic and Vitamin A supplements.

The result of these policies can be witnessed as below is a list of various private companies and their CSR expenditure in FY 2016-17.

India has a huge potential and it must convert its young population to a competitive advantage. This can be done only if nutrition and health are foundational to that outcome. While a lot of young people are taking up entrepreneurship, sensitizing them to such issues and their possible contribution through CSR can go a long way in shaping India’s future. According to data compiled by ratings agency Crisil, CSR spend has risen from Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 8,300 crore in fiscal 2016. This proves that the potential for CSR is huge in India, only if incorporated actively and judiciously. While we all make a living by what we get, it should be reinforced and remembered that we make a life by what we give.

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