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Affordability of balanced diet

  • Category
    Health Issues
  • Published
    5th Aug, 2020

New analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that hundreds of millions of people in India above the international poverty line of $1.90 purchasing power parity (PPP) per person per day cannot afford a ‘healthy or nutritious diet’.

Context

New analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that hundreds of millions of people in India above the international poverty line of $1.90 purchasing power parity (PPP) per person per day cannot afford a ‘healthy or nutritious diet’.

About

  • Every year, the FAO, in partnership with other United Nations organisations, publishes a report on food security across the world.
  • This year, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI 2020) had a new feature of detailed analysis of the “cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world”.
  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by:
    • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
    • International Fund for Agricultural Development
    • United Nations Children’s Fund
    • World Food Programme
    • World Health Organization (WHO)

Insights of the Analysis

  • Unaffordability of good diets: The analysis confirms the fact that the problem of poor nutrition in India is largely on account of the unaffordability of good diets, and not on account of lack of information on nutrition or tastes or cultural preferences.
  • The SOFI Report estimates that 18% of South Asians (numbering 586 million people) cannot afford the nutrient adequate diet and 58% of South Asians (1,337 million people) cannot afford the healthy diet.
  • The study defined three types of diets:
  • Basic energy sufficient diet: This takes into consideration only the basic calorie requirements of a person and the required calorie intake is met by consuming only the cheapest starchy cereal available. 2,329 Kcal for a healthy young woman of 30 years is taken as the standard reference.
  • Nutrient adequate diet: This involves meeting the required calorie norms and also the stipulated requirement of 23 macro- and micro-nutrients. This diet includes the least-cost items from different food groups.
  • Healthy diet: This type of diet, apart from meeting the calorie norm and the macro- and micro-nutrient norm, also allows for the consumption of a diverse diet, from several food groups.
  • The Indian recommendation for a healthy diet includes consumption of items from six groups: starchy staples, protein-rich food (legumes, meat and eggs), dairy, vegetables, fruits, and fats.

Indian Scenario

  • The Indian poverty line of 2011­12, as defined by the Tendulkar Committee, amounted to ?33 per day in urban areas and ?27 per day in rural areas, and corresponded roughly to $1 a day at international PPP prices. The Indian poverty line is thus lower than the international poverty line used in the SOFI Report.
  • As per the SOFI report:
  • Firstly, those people who are officially counted as poor in India – with a cut­off that is lower than the international norm of $1.9 a day – cannot afford a nutrient­adequate diet let alone a healthy diet. This result is completely contrary to the view of scholars such as ArvindPanagariya that the poverty line in India.
  • Second, even those with incomes of twice the international poverty line cannot afford a healthy diet.

Way Forward

The government has to address the problem of affordability of healthy diets in order to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity. The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana is a welcome step in this direction but inadequate to address the massive and growing problem of malnutrition. Hence the government has to take more initiatives to overcome the problem.

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