07 May 2011

Penultimate day at Washington DC

Today is the last day of our official engagement at Washington DC. We began the day by going to Feeding America. Interaction with Sophie Milam brought out many perspectives. Some of the important initiatives by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and School Meals among others. The poor are more likely to be those who eat unhealthy food, and hence, likely to be obese. These will have adverse implications on health as also life expectancy. Some of the biggest chalenges that they face are budget cuts. She also emphasised the need for a nutritional guidelines.

The next stop was at the United States Agency for International Development. There were discussions on feed the future. In fact, the research strategy is version is uploaded on their website and they want comments from public. They engage with different stakeholders (particularly other governments) in developing strategies to provide technology-enabled assistance. A caution that one would like to give is that in their engagements with many countries, vested interest come into play and that is why it is necessary to invest in people. There are positive experiments world wide in this people-centric initiatives, but these need to be scaled up.

Had lunch at a Thai outlet and then went to Best Buy from where I purchased a phone - for those coming from outside and staying here for a couple of weeks, the go phone by at&t is good. You pay about 10 dollars for the phone (it will not be operational once you leave the country) and another 15 dollars or 25 dollars for refilling. Thee are two interesting schemes - ten cents per minute and 2 dollars per day. I have taken the latter.

After having got the phone I called up Baba (for CDS people he is Prof KKS's son) who came to Pentagon city and picked me and another co-participant from Bangladesh. Touched base with Padma aunty who had just arrived. Came to know that Baba is a farmer (urban bee-keeper). He has sent some honey for people at home in Mumbai/Hyderabad. Later he took us to an Indian store owned by a Telugu speaking person who employed a Tamilian, a Nepali and a Hispanic. All Indian vegetables and food items were available. I picked up chicken biryani from there for my dinner. Tomorrow we fly to Sacramento, California.

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