National Nutrition Month: Towards a Healthier Tomorrow

Nutrition is not just about what’s on your plate; it’s about what fuels your life. In celebration of Rashtriya Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month), a nationwide initiative to address malnutrition and promote healthier eating habits, we sat down with one of the brightest minds in the field. Srishti Mathur, an Assistant Professor at Shoolini University, doesn’t just teach nutrition — she lives and breathes it. From debunking common food myths on her YouTube channel, ‘Directive Deck House’, to pioneering research in areas like space and military nutrition, Srishti is shaping the future of dietetics in groundbreaking ways.

In a lively and insightful conversation, Srishti delves into the role academic institutions like Shoolini University can play in sustaining the impact of Rashtriya Poshan Maah, not just for a month but as a long-term commitment. So, sit back and get ready to nourish your mind as we explore the dynamic world of nutrition with Srishti Mathur.

Q1 What is the importance and aim of Rashtriya Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month) in advancing nutritional awareness in India?

Rashtriya Poshan Maah, or National Nutrition Month, is a month-long campaign led by the Government of India every September. Its primary aim is to advocate for improved nutrition, especially among vulnerable groups like children, women, and adolescent girls.

The campaign’s objectives are four-fold:

  1. Raise Awareness on Nutritional Importance
  2. Promote Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Choices
  3. Identify and Address Root Causes of Malnutrition
  4. Mobilise Communities for Nutritional Revival

The initiative holds remarkable significance in India’s public health landscape. The urgency of its mission is evident by India’s 2022 Global Hunger Index ranking, where the country stands at 101 out of 121 countries. In essence, Rashtriya Poshan Maah serves as a ray of hope and a call to action, underlining India’s unwavering commitment to enhancing its citizens’ nutritional well-being.

Q2 How can academic institutions offering BSc and MSc in Nutrition & Dietetics engage in and contribute to Rashtriya Poshan Maah initiatives? 

Academic institutions can play a pivotal role in the success of initiatives like Rashtriya Poshan Maah. At Shoolini University, which offers BSc and MSc programs in Nutrition and Dietetics, we’re actively involved in several ways:

  • Awareness Initiatives: Shoolini University organises various awareness activities, including seminars for students, faculty, and the public. One notable example is our joint conference, ‘FOOD for a Healthy Planet’, co-hosted with the University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Educational Outreach: Aligning with this year’s UNICEF theme, ‘Healthy Diet Going Affordable for All’, we focus on creating and disseminating educational resources. We task our nutrition students with producing short educational videos featuring interviews and myth-busting segments about nutrition.
  • Research Contributions: Although we’re still expanding in this area, our students conduct rigorous research every academic year. Their work adds valuable insights to the ever-growing body of knowledge in the field of nutrition.
  • Community Collaboration: We believe in bridging the gap between academia and the community. So, Shoolini University partnered with the nearby village of Salogra to give students hands-on experience in understanding the severity of the nutritional crisis. Here, they conduct surveys and educational sessions.
  • Expert Knowledge Sharing: Recently, we hosted an online webinar featuring Prof Pulkit Mathur from Delhi University’s Lady Irwin College. The discussion provided invaluable insights and emphasised the importance of focusing our efforts toward a more nutritionally balanced global environment.

    In summary, Shoolini University is deeply committed to contributing to the nutritional well-being of our community through a multifaceted approach that involves education, research, and community engagement.

    Q3 What key focus areas and themes should be emphasised in Nutrition Courses during National Nutrition Month 2023 to align with the objectives of Poshan Maah?

    In 2023, the 6th Rashtriya Poshan Maah takes centrestage with the theme ‘Suposhit Bharat, Sakshar Bharat, Sashakt Bharat’ (Nutrition-rich India, Educated India, Empowered India). This theme highlights the integral relationship between nutrition, education, and empowerment in fortifying a healthier, stronger India.

    To align with the objectives of Poshan Maah, Nutrition Courses during National Nutrition Month 2023 should focus on the following key areas:

    • Maternal and Child Nutrition: Cover topics like prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding, which are crucial for the well-being of mothers and children.
    • Anemia Prevention and Control: Address this widespread public health issue, especially among women and children, through education and awareness.
    • Nutrition for Adolescent Girls: Highlight the importance of proper nutrition during the crucial life stage of adolescence, which involves rapid physical and emotional changes.
    • Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Choices: Emphasize balanced diets, portion control, the importance of physical activity, and the issue of affordability across different income groups.
    • Social Determinants of Malnutrition: Examine critical factors like poverty, food insecurity, and limited healthcare access that contribute to malnutrition.

    By focusing on these thematic pillars, academic institutions can provide a well-rounded, aligned approach to nutrition education during this important month.

    Q4 How can BSc Nutrition & Dietetics students actively participate in community engagement to raise awareness about nutrition during National Nutrition Month?

    During National Nutrition Month, BSc Nutrition & Dietetics students have various avenues for engaging with their communities to promote nutritional awareness. Leveraging their strong academic foundation, they can employ creative approaches such as:

    • Theatrical Performances: Students can use skits or dramatic narratives as an effective medium to convey essential nutritional information. This method not only educates but also entertains the audience.
    • Culinary Innovation: Understanding the complexities of public health nutrition enables students to address issues like hunger and poverty. They can host low-cost, healthy cooking competitions to demonstrate that nutritious meals can also be affordable.
    • Cutting-edge Research: Students in the program are driven by the pursuit of innovation, particularly in the development of products that tackle nutritional deficiencies. Their research initiatives add valuable insights to community awareness efforts.
    • Social Media Outreach: As a faculty member, I strongly endorse the strategic use of social media for its wide reach and speed. Students can amplify their message and raise awareness on a large scale by leveraging various digital platforms.

    By adopting these approaches, students can make a meaningful impact during National Nutrition Month, promoting health and well-being within their communities.

    Q5 How is the curriculum of BSc and MSc in Nutrition & Dietetics designed to align with the objectives of Rashtriya Poshan Maah, and what opportunities exist for further enhancement?

    This question highlights the multifaceted aspects of the field of nutrition and dietetics. Often limited to the conventional role of clinical dietitians, the field actually encompasses a broader array of knowledge that aligns closely with the objectives of Rashtriya Poshan Maah. Within this context, nutrition students explore topics such as diversity, geographical food distribution, and varying income levels that dictate accessibility.

    Our curriculum focuses on specialised areas like community nutrition, public health nutrition, and tailored nutrition for unique needs — areas deeply intertwined with Rashtriya Poshan Maah’s goals. Aspiring nutritionists learn to navigate the complexities of food, considering not only its nutritional value but also its sensory appeal and commercial feasibility.

    Shoolini University’s Nutrition program takes a comprehensive approach, examining all aspects of nutrition while considering variables like age, gender, and food access. This approach dovetails seamlessly with the principles of Rashtriya Poshan Maah, creating a mutually beneficial link between our educational objectives and the goals of the national campaign. Through this integrated curriculum, we aim to contribute meaningfully to fostering a healthier and better-nourished society.

    Q6 What strategies do you recommend to sustain the momentum and impact of Rashtriya Poshan Maah beyond the designated month to ensure long-lasting effects on nutrition awareness and behaviour? 

    Addressing the critical issue of food affordability is key to ensuring that Rashtriya Poshan Maah leaves a lasting impact. This will spark enduring changes in nutrition awareness and behaviour. Citing 2022 data from the World Bank, aligning innovative solutions with India’s global standing is essential. Additionally, leveraging technology, such as mobile apps and web platforms, can empower people to make informed dietary choices year-round. 

    The pivotal factor is awareness. One important goal is to debunk the misconception that nutritious food is inherently expensive. While there are instances where it may be costlier, it’s not universally true. Disseminating this knowledge is crucial to shifting perceptions and real-world conditions. Affordability and diversity are closely interconnected, making initiatives like Rashtriya Poshan Maah vital to liberating our country from malnutrition and creating a healthier, more sustainable environment for all.

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    Ciba Kanwar
    Ciba Kanwar
    Ciba is a Digital PRO. Responsible for creating and gathering informative content for the university's digital platforms. Also, Responsible for building and maintaining valuable relationships with the stakeholders.

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