OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Eat Right: A food systems approach to transform India’s food environment

To ensure safe, healthy and sustainable diets for all Indians through a 'Food Systems Approach' to improve their health and wellbeing.

Photo of Pawan Agarwal
9 2

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Eat right foundation, a registered entity that support eat right India movement in the country.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

New Delhi

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The vision is for India since transforming the food environment through a systems approach needs to occur at the national level. Ref:Q11

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Over the past four years, I am leading the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), India's apex food authority. Under the national law, the FSSAI has the mandate to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for all Indian citizens. 

I have the vision to transform the food environment in India through a systems approach. It requires multi-sectoral action and cannot be achieved by focusing on a particular region alone. Hence, the vision to right eating, i.e. safe, healthy and sustainable diets extends to the entire country. For this, FSSAI is leading Eat right movement. 

Eat right movement combines regulatory action with supportive action. It includes improving the hygiene and sanitation across the value chain. Almost 300,000 Food Safety Supervisors for food service establishments have been trained and certified. Hygiene rating of restaurants, sweet and meat shops has begun. Clusters of Clean Street Food Hubs, Fruit and Vegetable markets are being certified. Food environments are being transformed through a settings-based approach in the Eat Right Home, Eat Right School and Eat Right Campus initiatives. 

Over 35,000 schools have already been enrolled. Outreach efforts such as the ‘Swasth Bharat Yatra’, a pan-India cyclothon inspired by Mahatma Gandhi (Annexure 1,2,3,4) to nudge citizens to eat right, have energized the state machinery and reached 25 million Indians.

Eat Right India was showcased to 25 countries at the World Bank’s Lighthouse event and WHO-SEARO side-event in 2019. It has been endorsed by international food systems and global food safety experts. (Annexure 5a, 5b, 6, 7) With its ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach, embedded in its vision, it has the potential to impact over a billion people. (Annexure 8,9)

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

India is a country of vast diversity and scale. It is the seventh-largest country by area and the second-most populous country in the world. By 2027, India would become the most populous in the world with 1.64 billion that is about one-sixth of the mankind. India is a secular federal republic governed in a democratic parliamentary system. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society with multiple religious affiliations. There are 28 states and 9 Union territories in India, with 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects in various regions. While the overall literacy rate works out to be 64.8 %, in urban areas it is 79.9% and rural areas it is 64.7%. 

The diversity in food habits and diets is large with each state and region having its own culinary specialties and dietary patterns. India is primarily an agricultural country with a rapidly growing economy. Food sector is a key sector of India’s economy. It is estimated to be about $550 billion and accounts for on-fourth of the Indian economy. With its direct link into agriculture it is estimated that about 60% of Indians depend on the food sector for livelihood. A large part of India's food sector comprises of small business and a very large is unorganized informal sector. 

Indian cuisine consists of a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to the Indian subcontinent. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary substantially from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religion, in particular Hinduism, cultural choices and traditions. The cuisine is also influenced by centuries of Islamic rule, particularly the Mughal rule. Samosas and pilafs can be regarded as examples.

Agriculture and its allied sectors still remain an important sector because of its continued role in employment, income and most importantly in national food security. Its contribution to national income has gradually declined from 18.2% in 2014-15 to 16.5 % in 2019-20, reflecting the development process and the structural transformation taking place in the economy. Agriculture sector happens to be the largest source of livelihoods in India. 

There is focus on rice, wheat, sugarcane and potato cultivation in India with a lion's share of government subsidy taken away by the first three crops. As a result, there are serious dietary imbalances.  These cause several nutritional issues such as obesity and diabetes (caused by excess refined carbs), stunting (caused by inadequate protein and overall calories) and anaemia (caused by inadequate intake of pulses, green vegetables, meat). A key concern is high subsidies on rice and wheat and high tariffs barriers and poor supply management on milk and meat.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

India’s food sector is complex, faces several challenges that operate in a vicious cycle and are likely to grow in future with increasing population. 

Few of these are enumerated below:

Poor quality diets: The Indian diet is predominantly cereal based (rice and wheat), protein-deficient, lacking in fruits and vegetables and rising consumption of fats and sugars. Per capita per day consumption of calories is still lower than the global recommendations (2500 kcal/day) and is unequally distributed across regions, gender and age-groups. Simple carbs contribute majorly to these calories while proportion of protein, fats and vegetables is minimal.  Fats and sweeteners are either consumed excessively or inaccessible. High subsidies on rice and wheat and high tariffs barriers and poor supply management on milk and meat are the key reasons for distortions in the food sector. Low ratio of price/100 kcal of cereals as compared to milk and meat is a major reason for Indians eating a cereal centric diet.

Triple burden of malnutrition: Quarter of children and adolescents in the country are stunted; more than 50% of women of reproductive age group and children are anaemic; overweight and obesity has doubled over the last decade in both rural and urban areas of the country. Further, one in ten school-age children and adolescents are pre-diabetic. The country faces huge economic loss due to food borne diseases (FBD) – going up to 0.5% of GDP. It is estimated that in a business as usual scenario, number of cases of FBDs in India would increase from 100 million (in 2011) to about 150-177 million (in 2030) with children under-5 being most vulnerable.

Food Waste: An average of 20 percent of food being wasted in the country. Lack of warehousing, processing and cold storage facilities are the key reasons for food wastage. Fruits and vegetables (40%), milk (40%) and meat (20%) are the ones wasted the most in the sector. Given the high nutritional deficiency in India, reducing this waste needs to be addressed on priority.

Safety and Hygiene: Safety and hygiene of food across the value chain is an issue. Microbial contamination especially of milk, meat and F&V, improper temperature control and adulteration are key issues.

Environmental Degradation:This sector is the biggest contributor of plastics in the country. High use of pesticides and chemicals in farming, mono-cropping patterns (rice and sugarcane) contribute to depleting water tables and burning of rice stubbles as source of air pollution are emerging challenges for the sector.

Livelihood and employment: The food sector directly or indirectly employs about 2/3rd of Indians. Employment issues and political mobilization of crops that are well organised need to be considered.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Eat Right India has an ambitious vision of transforming India’s food environment. It adopts a judicious mix of regulatory, capacity building, collaborative and empowerment tools and combines supportive actions to its primary regulatory mandate. It adopts a ‘food systems approach’ to address the issues in a holistic manner. 

To achieve its vision work in the following areas will be prioritized:

1. Create robust food regulatory system that includes setting science-based, globally-benchmarked standards, credible food testing, surveillance, and enforcement activities. Setting standards on use of excess salt, sugar and fat; use of recyclable plastics and tougher implementation of safety and health standards. This will help solve for food wastage and food safety without health and environmental impacts.

2.The second area will focus on improving hygiene and sanitation across the value chain through a graded approach. Capacity building through training and certification for all businesses including unorganized petty food vendors, hygiene ratings for medium and small businesses, and organizing vendors in clean clusters and hubs. Promotion of self-compliance by big food businesses will be prioritized. In order to reach out to the large informal sector and small and medium enterprises, scalable models and innovative approaches would be needed.

3.The third area is about changing food environments by taking a settings-based approach and targeting people at home, school, workplace and outside through training and capacity building and generating awareness.

4. Fourth is mass mobilization to nudge citizens to eat right. To initiate a people’s movement to create demand side push for safe food, healthier and suitable diets is needed.

This would require coordinated action by diverse group of stakeholders – the government at national, state and local level, food (and even non-food) businesses, civil society and consumer organizations, professionals of food and nutrition, farmers and farmers organizations, science and research institutions and others – using their combined skills, assets and capabilities to achieve the shared goal.

 Apart from these, realigning and repurposing of current subsidy regime in agriculture and food sector to favour healthier food environment and sustainable farm practices would be critical. For instance, a relative increase in prices of wheat and rice through gradual phasing out of subsidies in their production along with a relative decrease in price of fruits and vegetables, milk, meat and oils through targeted subsidies will create healthy food environment and move farmers towards more sustainable farm practices. This must however be accompanied with direct transfers and reskilling of farmers to ensure that there is no livelihood lost in transition. The role of FSSAI in this area will be limited to provision of technical advice to the related departments/ ministries.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The vision for 2050 is to bring about a transformation of the food ecosystem in India and address its numerous public health, economic, environmental and cultural challenges related to food, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

As a result of various regulatory measures, safe food would be accessible to everyone. Effective implementation of the food safety law would assure people of safe food everywhere. There would be safe water everywhere. People would be aware of safe and hygienic food practices. Thus, the threat of food borne illnesses would be minimized. The reduced burden of food-related diseases would result in greater productivity and economic development.

Healthy food options would accessible and affordable to everyone. People would be well-informed and dietary patterns would shift largely to local, regional, seasonal, plant-based, whole-foods.Traditional Indian food, infused by the ancient Indian wisdom of Ayurveda would become popular. Food companies would provide healthy food and beverage options with low salt, fat and sugar content. Industrial trans-fat would be eliminated entirely. Fortified foods, with added vitamins and minerals would be available everywhere. This would result in the decline of micronutrient deficiencies, stunting and wasting, particularly among children, decline of non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes. 

Food production would shift to environmentally sustainable methods such as organic farming and biological solutions for pesticides, drip irrigation etc. Food loss would be minimized, thus making more food available for the growing population. Surplus food would be shared with those in need at a systemic level, thus eliminating hunger. Carbon footprint, non-biodegradable waste, greenhouse gas emissions would be minimized. There would be a greener and cleaner environment for everyone and an increased quality of life for everyone.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The food system is of paramount importance to the outcomes of nutrition, health, and sustainability, and affected by factors cutting across environment, diets, economics, culture, technology and policy.

India’s population is projected to be around 1.64 billion by 2050, one sixth of the world’s population. Our vision for 2050, to feed this growing population, is to have primary production driven by small-scale farmers connected through agri-food value chains, benefiting from economies of scale. Integration of traditional knowledge with new technologies and robust logistics would provide eco-friendly solutions. A community-driven approach would create self-sufficient local food ecosystems reducing storage and transport costs and post-harvest losses. By 2050, the majority of farmers in India would be engaged in organic farming using a wide variety of alternatives to chemical fertilizers to enrich soil. Drip irrigation and water harvesting would be mainstreamed and help India to achieve zero-water wastage. The production of crops will shift to millets, traditional food crops and regional grains as per local needs. The food industry would transform to accommodate small scale production units resulting in self-sustaining local economies with minimal environment consequences.

To significantly reduce under-nutrition, micronutrient malnutrition and NCDs by 2050, a shift towards consumption of foods low in salt, fat and sugar as well as universalization of fortified foods containing additional key vitamins and minerals is envisioned. Reformulated food products by the food industry with healthier ingredients will mainstay of the food system. A shift towards personalized diets is anticipated due to increase in purchasing power and technology-led platforms. Consumption of regional, local and seasonal produce would be the norm. A rejuvenation of traditional culture emerging from Ayurveda is expected. The food culture of 2050 would be traditional, indigenous and aligned with India’s ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and be mainstreamed through small-scale local entrepreneurs.

Ensuring a nourishing food future for India is inextricably linked to its economic growth and equity. Economic costs of food borne diseases in India amounted to 0.5% of the GDP, equivalent to 28 billion USD (in 2010). This would be reduced to less than 0.1% of the GDP by 2050. India is primarily an agriculture-based economy with the agriculture sector making up nearly 47% of Indian labour force which stands at 521.9-million-worker, world’s second-largest, as of 2017. As agricultural operations become more efficient with the use of technology and developments, a substantial section of the labour force would move up the ladder and be employed in allied activities, logistics, supply chain and others, reducing the share of labour force in agriculture sector to 15% by 2050. This would improve wages thereby improving purchasing power and reducing rural distress. There would be growth of small and medium enterprises in the food sector. As these local economies are majorly driven by female workforce, it would result in community level development and bridge the gender gap and promote equitable economic growth.

Food service is an emerging segment of Indian service industry, currently at third position after retail and insurance. FSSAI is taking a cluster-based approach for training of unorganised food businesses, which accounts for 65% of the overall food service market in the country. Holistic capacity building and continuous improvement of the petty vendors would improve consumer trust, livelihood opportunities for these vendors and the local economy.

Emerging technologies from across the spectrum, from biotechnology to big data, internet of things, block-chain, agricultural biotechnology, and artificial intelligence have the potential to transform the landscape of food from the farm to the fork. Concept of plastic footprint for food and beverage sector will be introduced. There would be innovative environment friendly options in place to replace the use of plastics in the industry.  Big data gathered through smartphones and body wearable devices would provide personalized information to monitor diet-linked health parameters. Data gathered from farms and food distribution networks would enable better traceability of food, quantification of the impact on the ecosystem and help reduce food wastage. Consumer data would be used for tracking food trends and preferences to prepare customized food via 3-D printers by 2050. Personalized shopping recommendations, personalized menu recommendations in restaurants, hotels and workplaces would be a reality. Various aspects of the food system, from farm production to food processing, would be rapidly automated. With the increasing trend of migration to cities, farm production is expected to be heavily mechanized and automated. Access to the food supplied by the cloud-kitchens can turn out to be a major public health concern which would require regulatory and policy measures.

The following technological advances are particularly important for India - drought-and pest-resistant varieties of staple crops, economically viable technologies for crop management and harvesting, interventions for reducing the indiscriminate use of pesticides, solar-enabled preservation facilities for agricultural yield, technological interventions and financial instruments to guarantee fair pricing to farmers, centres for preserving diverse varieties of local crops, vegetables, and plants and alternative protein sources for meat-based products, food rooted in traditional ethno-medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, agri-biotechnology and tourism.

The factors that would enable the current workforce to effectively transition to the envisioned technological changes in the future food system are: an enabling environment for entrepreneurial ventures; creating data repositories on all aspects food, encompassing traditional recipes, taste/flavour, nutrition, and health; creating a healthy, competitive environment targeted at delivering envisioned solutions; engaging key stakeholders in creating food safety solutions (food companies, restaurants, cloud-kitchens; street vendors; aggregators and people at large, especially children). Algae as a basis of the plant foods, in-vitro or lab-grown meat would gain widespread consumer acceptance and is expected to be available at a commercial level.

Government policies are critical to creating an enabling environment to ensure safe, healthy and sustainable diets. Currently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is India’s apex food body with mandate to ensure safe and wholesome food to all citizens at all times. Its mandate is gradually being expanded for improved multi-sectoral and multi-issue coordination.  This would be renamed as the ‘Food Authority of India’ and take not only ‘whole of the Government’, but ‘whole of society approach’ in dealing with issue of food in an holistic and integrative manner for inclusive, equitable and sustainable food system to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To ensure food security and adequate nutrition, policies to ensure availability and accessibility of food equitably would be in place in 2050. Currently, in India, food-based schemes for the vulnerable sections of society already cater to around 230 million people covered under the National Food Security Act, nearly 100 million children through the Mid-Day Meal programme and 90 million women and children through the Integrated Child Development Services programme are benefitted. Through policy interventions, the current model of distribution of food grains would change to a voucher based system by 2050 with freedom to in families to buy healthy food from local areas benefiting local communities.

For reduced consumption of sugar, salt and fat to address the rise of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases, policies on implementation of sugar-tax on food and beverages, front of pack labelling, regulations for advertising to children, regulations for food served in schools would be implemented. Moreover, subsidies and tax-cuts for healthier food options, particularly plant-based, local, regional and seasonable whole-foods would be provided. Thus, policies to support institutions and budgets for large-scale consumer awareness would be introduced. The Government would be incentivized to put these policies in place by leveraging taxes from unhealthy foods and channelling them appropriately.

To support sustainable food production policies related to judicious land and water use for agricultural production would also be introduced such as limiting the land brought under cultivation, prescribing crops by region for maximum productivity, allowing only organic farming and biological solutions to control of pesticides etc. Furthermore, policies to limit food loss along the food value chain and food waste and its conversion into biofuel would be created such as mandatory donation of surplus food and used cooking oil, minimization of food loss during production and incentives to consumers to reduce food waste and recycle food through home-based or community-level practices such as composting. Policies to encourage regional trade practices would be effectively implemented. These would include streamlining import-export process, aligning with global norms and facilitating healthier, safer and sustainable food in trade by lowering taxes.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
View more

Attachments (16)

Gandhi Film.mp4

Annexure 1: Gandhi JI: Inspiration behind Eat Right India


Annexure 2: A movie on the largest cyclothon for public health in India: Swasth Bharat Yatra

SBY Report- CoffeeTableBook copy.pdf

Annexure 3: Coffee table book on the largest cyclothon for public health in India called 'Swasth Bharat Yatra'

Eat Right Mela.mp4

Annexure 4: Eat Right Mela: A street food festival to promote eating right

Eat Right India_Lighthouse2019.mp4

Annexure 5b: Global food safety experts talk about the Eat Right India movement

WHO Director on ERI Media Interaction.mp4

Annexure 6: Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region on Eat Right India

Endorsements to Eat Right India from International fraternity.docx

Annexure 7: Endorsements by International Fraternity

With the Eat Right India Movement, We Seek to Secure a Healthy Future.pdf

Annexure 8: An opinion piece by CEO,FSSAI talking about the impact of Eat Right India

Why We Need to Revisit the National Nutrition Strategy_Indian Express_28Dec.pdf

Annexure 9: An opinion piece by the CEO, FSSAI featured in a national daily describing why India needs a national nutrition intervention and how FSSAI is working to address the same

Eat Right Bookmark Design 1.pdf

Eat Right India: The logo and key themes

Eat Right Bookmark Design 2.pdf

Eat Right India: One Goal Many Roles

Mascot Movie copy.mp4

A movie on the Mascots of the Eat Right India movement -Master and Miss Sehat


A movie showcasing the 'Eat Right India' movement.

ERI Logo ppt copy.mp4

A short film on the explanation of the logo of the Eat Right India movement.

Eat Right_World bank_Lighthouse.pdf

Annexure 5a: A brochure on the World Bank's Lighthouse event to showcase the Eat Right India movement.

Eat Right Book Finally complete v2.pdf

A book describing the vision, mission and programmes under the Eat Right India movement and its various components.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)

Hi, I want to create a network with you.

Photo of Pawan Agarwal

Yes, you are welcome...

Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)

Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

View all comments