Happier Shopping and Healthier Eating – Somungla Khamrang, Assistant Professor, Department of Education

Let’s take a closer look at Nagaland and the local bazaar shopping experience. Come rain or sunshine it’s difficult to enter our markets – slushy pathways, heaps of garbage (rotten vegetables, fruits, paper waste etc.) and lack of hygiene all around. At a time when even footwear are now being sold in air-conditioned shops, we are still selling the bulk of our vegetables and other essential foodstuffs in unhygienic conditions, next to drainages, filth and trash. Providing a hygienic and pleasant shopping experience is just as important as clean and healthy food.

Happier Shopping and Healthier Eating

The stability and the sustainability of our health largely depends on the food that we consume every day. Good and hygienic food is essential for us to make or to sell food that is safe to eat. We all know that food can be easily contaminated at any point during slaughter, harvesting, storage, processing, distribution, transportation and preparation. So, one has to be very careful about food hygiene, which are the conditions and measures to ensure the safety of food from production to consumption. Anybody involved in the food business should have a good knowledge of food hygiene for personal as well as for general good health. Good knowledge of food hygiene will help to reduce the chances of food contamination in food management.

In light of this, the condition of food supplies in our market is an impending threat that we need to treat more seriously. The daily markets in our cities have lots of vulnerable shops on the roadside. The weekly bazaars in our localities are far worse again. No doubt, the various foodstuffs being sold in such vulnerable markets are rich in nutrients that are required to keep our health intact. However, when we look at the dust, dirt and trash lying around, it is scary to even consider the hygiene of the food we are consuming.

Yet, it is not enough to be concerned and careful with just the environment of the market alone, we also have to worry about the source of supply of those foods. It needs to be checked and ensured that they are hygienically harvested, processed and distributed to the suppliers. Transportation of food from the field or farm to our kitchen needs to be hygienically done. Today the food supply to our market is questionable, particularly, the food sold on the roadside and the open/weekly market. They are exposed to all sources of germs and other contaminated substances. If the process of food production and harvesting is unhygienic, furthermore, exposure of food to garbage adds increased toxin to our food that affects our health. They are being exposed and sold in the open air on the footpaths, and near garbage where swarms of flies hover around carrying deadly germs. Physically, we live in palatial like houses and clean, shiny kitchens, yet we buy our food from weekly/daily market places which are no better than waste dumping sites. How clean and hygienic can the food we buy and consume be? I don’t think the tidy kitchen/utensils alone will keep us healthy, rather, it is the kind of food we choose to eat and drink. We should not be blind consumers. We need to know what the contents of the food items are – the environment of the market and the probable contaminated foods should be examined.

Various kinds of food items, especially vegetables and fruits are being brought from the rural areas and cold regions. Many such nutritious foods rot faster in a warm place like Dimapur. So, cold storages or other forms of preservative methods of food items are needed to ensure that seasonal foods are made available throughout the year. Efforts for preservation can either be initiated by the local authority or the daily market dealers and business people. I believe this can be a source of development for our society in many ways because it encourages the local farmers to produce organic foods that we need by widening the market for them. Furthermore, it can promote our own cultivators and farmers and enhance the economic status of our own local people, especially in rural areas.

Sellers who are in the agriculture and farming business should be educated with the knowledge of hygiene management. Here, even the role of education in promoting food security and value is crucial. Educational programs can be expanded to accommodate food purity and security.  Awareness programs and consultative sessions for people can be taken up. Children in the class can be imparted knowledge about the importance of hygienic food and the basic knowledge of hygienic food management.

It is high time that our society upgrades the social standard and system of public administration. The concerned authority, management and administration must sincerely engage to create a better society with commitment. While the system of tax collection and annual contributions towards concerned authorities or local authorities seems to be increasing  in a phase-wise manner, one would expect that the conditions of the market and weekly bazaar should be standardized and upgraded simultaneously too. On the contrary, it is disheartening to see that our bazaars are rather turning into pathetic dumping grounds. Marketing sheds and other commercial platforms in the market should be provided and the existing infrastructure should be upgraded. We must emphasise on progressive development, and find out ways to improve the markets. In this case, I feel that it should be like a give and take culture, where the tax payers should also enjoy the market experience of shopping in a clean environment and consuming healthy food.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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