In a country where too many people eat wrong foods or can’t get the right ones, it’s a challenge to hunt down individuals and institutions whose work is truly making a difference on the nutrition front.
On June 29, that was the candid message from the jury, the 12 nutrition gurus from across the country, who met at the India International Centre, Delhi, to shortlist nominations for the Outlook Poshan Innovation Awards 2019.
Instituted by the Outlook Group this year, the awards are all about nutrition—the first such from a media outlet. The aim is to recognise and celebrate innovative nutrition interventions at work across the country.
About 167 nutrition activists, anganwadi workers, non-profits, scientists, technocrats, and government departments have submitted their work: a mixed palette of local and national initiatives, all awe-inspiring examples of innovative action on the ground.
From simple interventions to improve healthy eating behaviours to smart multi-sectoral nutrition action plans, from climate resilient agri-nutrition solutions to new technology and Big Data to reduce undernutrition, from food fortification projects to targeted supplements for the most vulnerable—the applications are simple, strategic and often surprising. But is their impact measurable? Can they be scaled up for wider reach? What’s more, can they be sustained?
It has been a daunting task for the jury to scan and probe all aspects of the innovation spectrum: the strength of ideas, depth of knowledge, stamina and futuristic thinking.
The jury had put in place a structured screening process, analysing the relevant contributions and impact of an applicant’s work, through multiple levels of assessments and investigations: from eligibility to relevance, originality to impact, sustainability to authenticity of information provided. Accordingly, candidates were shortlisted in six categories: safe and nutritious food, policy and governance, urban nutrition, social enterprise, science and technology along with the individual category of nutrition warriors. A special jury award under the “living legend” category was determined separately.
The jury members include: Dr Rajesh Kumar, IAS, former mission director, Poshan Abhiyaan, Government of India; Alok Kumar, IAS, Advisor, NITI Aayog; Dr Hemalatha, Director, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition; Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, Padma Shri awardee; Dr Rupinder Singh Sodhi, Managing Director, GCMMF (Amul); Hisham Mundol, Executive Director, India and Child Protection, Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF); Dr Purvi Mehta, Head of Asia, Agriculture, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); Kalpana Beesabathuni, Global Lead, Technology & Entrepreneurship, Sight and Life; Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs & Partnerships (Africa, Middle East and South Asia), Reckitt Benckiser; Dr Rajan Sankar, Advisor – Nutrition, Tata Trusts; Basanta Kumar Kar, Transform Nutrition Champion and Country Director, Project Concern International/ India; Ruben Banerjee, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook.
Sharing thoughts on the selection process Kumar, chair of the jury, said, “We have an extremely difficult job in hand, because nutrition is difficult to quantify.” About her experience as a part of the jury panel, Hemlatha said, “The purpose of the awards is an opportunity to think big and take stock of how to do things differently on the nutrition-front. That’s what makes these awards quite exciting.”
“It’s a great platform and a great opportunity,” pointed out Mundol, “I think, this is the only such platform not just in the country but globally.” Mehta added, “It’s a lovely concept, especially because the nutrition foot soldiers often remain invisible. The awards capture what really is happening on the ground across the country. To Banerjee, “The names that stand out have really done things differently. That’s why they got short-listed.”
The work of the jury will continue even after the meet. The selected applications will be verified for impact evaluation through the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, data. The jury will then decide the three finalists of each category. On August 3, the finalists will be invited to Delhi for the inaugural ceremony of the awards, to be presided by the Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu.