NEW DELHI, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- India is seeking assistance in solving its youth hunger crisis, as its massive free lunch program for the poor remains mired in corruption and mismanagement problems. But the country also has a growing obesity epidemic to worry about.
In the country's latest attempt to address both problems, Indian officials are calling on U.S. soda-maker Pepsi to chip in.
After a meeting with Pepsi's Indian-born CEO, Indra Nooyi, India's Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal confirmed that he had asked the company to deliver healthy processed food items -- food to be included in the nation's free school lunch program. Badal also reportedly asked Pepsi to reduce the amount of sugar they put in its snacks and soft drinks.
"Ms. Nooyi said that her company has already invested substantially in India's food processing sector and they wish to double this investment in the coming years," Indian officials wrote in a press release Tuesday. "Ms. Nooyi also stressed that they would endeavor to provide such products that are healthy and nutritious."
Despite the declaration from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, it remains unclear whether any agreement was reached between India and Pepsi.
India's school lunch program is the largest in the world. Created in 2004 to encourage the millions of poor children in India's rural communities to attend school, the program has seen its fair share of problems -- including allegations of corruption and mismanagement that has resulted in serious lapses in safety standards. Last year, a shipment of school lunches was accidentally poisoned with pesticide; 23 children in the eastern state of Bihar were killed.
Regardless of whether or not Pepsi will help feed India's schoolchildren, the company has already made its intentions for upping its investment in the South Asian country well-known. The country is less soda crazy that its neighbors, so it remains an untapped market for soft-drink makers.