TO PLUCK AT WILL: FRUIT TREES IN COMMON PROPERTY
Geography and You|Issue 146, 2020
Despite many governmental initiatives, malnutrition in India remains a major health challenge. There is a marked deficit of fruits in the diet of most Indians, consuming much lower than what is recommended by the World health organisation (Who). One of the reasons behind this is the high price of fruits and thus its inequitable access. As we prepare ourselves to live in a world marred by COVID-19 and a shrinking Indian economy, we must think of new ideas to manage access to food, especially micro nutrient rich fruits. This paper explores the possibility of planting endemic fruit trees in public spaces like roadsides and parks, that can help in increasing the consumption of fruits amongst the poor. It also attempts to analyse whether this can serve as a long term solution to bridge the gap between fruit production and consumption in India.
India had prioritised economic growth and alleviation of poverty and hunger since Independence. The nation has launched various schemes and programmes to meet the nutritional needs of its citizens. Article 47 of the Indian constitution, in fact, places the responsibility on the state to raise the nutrition level of its citizens. Policies and schemes like the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) or POSHAN Abhiyan had been designed keeping in mind the improvement in nutrition levels of Indians.

While there has been considerable success in accomplishing the desired goals, malnutrition in India continues to persist. According to data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), 68.2 per cent of children in the age group (0-5) are in the high-risk category from malnutrition in 2017 (Lancet Child Adolescent Health 2019). Also, according to the latest National Family Health Survey NFHS-4 (2015-16), 35.7 per cent of children below five years are underweight, 38.4 per cent are stunted and 21 per cent are wasted in India (IIPS and ICF 2017). Similarly, anaemia is still a huge cause of concern as 53 per cent women and 23 per cent men in the 15-49 age group are anaemic according to the latest NHFS-4 numbers. Malnutrition weakens the immune system and leads to deficiencies of iron and vitamins.

Are Indians eating enough fruits?

Today, as we prepare to live in a world marred by COVID-19, the future needs to look towards a reduction in inequality to access, especially when it comes to nutrient-rich, high-quality foods such as fruits. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the consumption of fruits and vegetables should be part of a daily diet because of their immense health benefits. A 2004 report by the WHO recommends that every person should consume a minimum of 400g (five daily servings of roughly 80g each) of fruit and vegetables per day for the prevention and alleviation of micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries (FAO and WHO 2004). It is not just the WHO that recommends regular consumption of fruits even the NHFS-4 says that fruits should be a staple part of one’s diet (IIPS and ICF 2017). Micronutrients in fruits therefore help in building the immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancers.

Reports, however, indicate that Indians are consuming very little fruits, irrespective of their age and class. According to India’s Phytonutrient Report most Indians are consuming roughly 1.5 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables everyday, which is only 280g (Mukherjee et al. 2016), much lower than the WHO recommended intake.

Does income affect fruit consumption?

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