Friday, October 09, 2015

Ande ka Funda!

What better time than the World Egg Day to voice my opinion about the debate of eggs in school feeding programmes and the lack of information about World Egg Day!

The debate around including eggs in free meals in schools recently resurfaced as the Madhya Pradesh government banned eggs in Mid-Day meals and anganwadis. And today, being the World Egg day, an international event which focuses on celebrating eggs all around the world, I can’t help but wonder what do people consider more important – The nutrition value or the sentimental "value", boiling down to one banned item after the other.

The red part of  measuring tape show acute malnutrition.
According to latest Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates in ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015’ report, 194.6 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Also 51% of women between 15 to 59 years of age are anaemic and 44% of children under 5 are underweight. It is well known that malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. India was ranked at 55 out of 76 countries, by the Global Hunger Index 2014 on the basis of three leading indicators -- prevalence of underweight children under 5 years, under 5 child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population.

However, the real worry, that I feel, is the lack of knowledge and awareness about this issue. And despite being a nation of what I can only hope to be well-informed and thinking individuals, the benefits are usually forgotten and more focus is given to its religious and political status. 

It is believed by a lot of nutritionists round the world that malnutrition can be fought with the help of regular intake of eggs, which hopefully isn’t disputed in many regions. Different states have different policies regarding eggs. Around 15 states across the country provide eggs to under-nourished children – some only in the Integrated Child Development Scheme anganwadis, some in the midday meal scheme for schools, and some states in both schemes.

For developing countries, like ours, with Mid-day meals programme in place, it is essential that eggs should be used, not just because of the nutritional values but for a lot many other options which make them ‘Rural-friendly’. They have a longer shelf-life than milk or bananas which is more useful in rural areas, with decentralised kitchens and where refrigeration facilities are non-existent. Also eggs cannot be diluted or adulterated like milk or dals. 

Punch Bowl Social
India has been amongst the top 5 egg producing countries of the world and according to a report by Abroader Consultancy, discussing the opportunities in India’s Poultry Sector, despite positive forecasts and investor confidence, the poultry sector still faces certain fundamental challenges. It talks about the global trends where most prominently, sporadic bird flu outbreaks, have resulted in a widespread demand drop across the country in the past. However, the key concern still is the existing lack of storage, cold chain, transport and processing facilities. High feed costs also result in an increased cost of production which translates to higher prices. Other challenges include a lack of quality standards which result in high vulnerability to disease outbreaks.

The need of the hour is therefore, specialised systems and upgrades and existing facilities to boost production, enhance quality and improve outputs. And though the Indian government is exploring growth opportunities and developing ways to improve the current situation, more efforts are required, not just by the government but also by the private participants.

World Egg Day

On a slightly less “controversial” note, I would like to mention it that prior to a couple of days, I wasn’t even aware about anything called the World Egg Day, and I feel there must be quite a few people out there like me, so here’s a brief intro.

To begin with, The World Egg Day was created to promote the amazing eggs internationally, established by the International Egg Commission (IEC) in 1996 and it is globally celebrated on the 9th October 2015. Now, it is a well recognised event and celebrated throughout the world every year on the second Friday of October, with countries all around the world commemorating and enjoying the benefits of eggs. Festivals, charitable events and city celebrations, all are part of the day of recognition for this small but mighty food source.

International Egg Commission
According to a press release by the IEC, Cesar de Anda, Chairman of the IECsaid: “The egg is one of the most important foods globally and its significance should not be overlooked! The most important source of high quality protein, the egg is perfect for sustainable development; the industry can feed a growing population, the egg is incredible.” Eggs provide us with many beneficial nutrients from vitamin A, needed for the healthy development of the body’s cells, and which helps to maintain healthy skin and eye tissue and assisting in night vision, vitamin B12, which is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, important for the immune system to function properly, and helps protect against heart disease, right through to choline, vital for nerves and muscles to function correctly, and proven to lower the risk of heart disease, prevent age related memory loss and reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 40%.

I also realised it is not that major an event in India after all, no surprise there I might add! There are various celebrations held around the world for this occasion and according to an article by The New Indian Express, in India, the World egg day will be celebrated in four places- Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Mumbai and Vijayawada. While another article mentioned that cultural programmes promoting consumption of eggs and contests would mark the World Egg Day celebrations to be held in Vijayawada, on October 9. The celebrations would include contests in making egg-based preparations with participation from hoteliers, students and the people.

To end this article on a slightly more humorous way than it began, here’s a the song ‘Ande ka Funda’, which has been playing in my head since I learned about International Egg Day!

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