Pondicherry: On the Global Hunger Index 2016, India ranks 97th out of the 118 nations with widespread hunger levels, faring worse in comparison to the neighboring countries – China (29), Nepal (72), Myanmar (75), Sri Lanka (84) and Bangladesh (90). Despite tremendous economic progress, India remains home to 184 million undernourished people, many of them young-growing children causing serious concerns at the alarming hunger levels. 
· Among Indian children under 5 years of age, almost 48% are stunted, 60% suffer from anaemia – The World Bank 
· 70% of the Indian population still consumes less than 50% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of micronutrients – FSSAI 
· Estimated annual GDP loss from low weight, poor child growth and micronutrient deficiencies average 11% in Asia and Africa – Global Nutrition Report 2016 
A recent Bangalore based study conducted amongst 634 school-going children, drawn equally from the various socio-economic classes, found that up to 95% could be at risk of inadequate micronutrient intake, with almost 70% at risk of having insufficient intake of four or more micronutrients. The intake of nutrients that were most inadequate in the Bangalore study was vitamin A, folate, vitamin b12 and iron, leaving children susceptible to stunting, weakened immune systems impaired cognitive function, anaemia, low energy levels and other devastating effects of hidden hunger.
Presumably, what constitutes a “balanced diet” for a mother is the home cooked healthy food she puts on her child’s plate. The lesser known fact is that a balanced diet is the amount of intake of crucial vitamins and minerals which are needed for healthy growth of a child. Unfortunately, parents often are not aware of the symptoms of hidden hunger. A pediatric study in Mumbai of 111 urban affluent mothers found that more than half were unable to tell if their children were under or overweight, and attributed this to Indian mothers’ general perception of a chubby baby as healthy.
Micronutrient deficiency, also known as hidden hunger, is the key underlining issue and can be explained as inadequate intake of crucial vitamins and minerals ‒ such as zinc, vitamin A and folate ‒ which are needed for healthy mental and physical growth of children.
While Government is taking steps through its initiatives, parents can champion this cause and make an immediate difference. The solution can be as simple as helping parents to improve shopping habits at the neighbourhood grocery store or kirana. Feeding children, a diverse diet including a variety of cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods is one of the most effective ways to sustainably prevent micronutrient deficiency.
Parents can also look out for fortified foods and drinks, which have been consistently ranked as the top investments to make in a child’s development. A study by the Indian National Institute of Nutrition concluded that supplementation of daily diet with a beverage fortified with a range of micronutrients significantly improved physical growth and attention and concentration scores among urban schoolchildren.
Considering how important better nourished children are to maximising India’s developmental potential, working with parents for better childhood nutrition is increasingly becoming an imperative and not just an option. Empowering ordinary mothers and fathers to lead the charge to spread awareness and act can only hasten efforts to make hidden hunger a thing of the past.
 The Economist, India’s malnourished infants http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/07/daily-chart-0
 Rapid Survey on Children, 2013-2014. India Fact Sheet. p 4.
 World Health Organization, (2011).The Global Prevalence of Anemia in 2011. p. 21.
 International Food Policy Research Institute. 2016. Global Nutrition Report 2016: From Promise to Impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030. Washington, DC.
 Iron, Vit. B1, B2, B3, B12, A & Folate. Krishnaswamy GJ et. al, Adequacy of Nutrient Intakes In Urban School Children. Poster (CMN-P-053) presented at: Nutrition Risk Management and Nutrition. 48th Annual National Conference of Nutrition Society of India; 4th – 5th November 2016, Bengaluru, India.
 Semba, R. (2004). Impact of Micronutrient Deficiencies on Immune Function. Micronutrient Deficiencies during the Weaning Period and the First Years of Life, pp.137-152.
 Ozdemir, N. (2015). Iron deficiency anemia from diagnosis to treatment in children. Türk Pediatri Arşivi, 50(1), pp.11-19.
 Jani, R., Mihrshahi, S., Mandalika, S. and Mallan, K. (2014). Validity of Maternal-Reported Weight and Height of 2–5 Year Old Children. The Indian Journal of Pediatrics.
 Bhave S, Bavdekar A, Otiv M. (2004). IAP National task force for childhood prevention of adult diseases: childhood obesity. Indian Pediatr. 4:559-76.
 Muthayya S, Rah JH, Sugimoto JD, Roos FF, Kraemer K, Black RE. The Global Hidden Hunger Indices and Maps: An Advocacy Tool for Action. Noor AM, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(6):e67860. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067860
 International Food Policy Research Institute. (2014). Global Hunger Index: The challenge of hidden hunger. Chapter 03. Addressing the Challenge of Hidden Hunger. p 25.
 Copenhagen Consensus, USAID, (2009). Investing In The Future – A United Call To Action On Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies. p 6.
 Claims based on a study conducted in 1999-2000 and published in Nutrition:22(2006)S1-S39, comparing micronutrient enriched beverage vs. non fortified placebo.