- A recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) analysis 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.
Reason for poor nutrition
- 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.
|About the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report
Highlights of 2020 report
What does the study want governments to do?
Types of diets
Basic energy sufficient diet
- This is one in which the required calorie intake is met by consuming only the cheapest starchy cereal available (say, rice or wheat).
- A requirement of 2,329 Kcal for a healthy young woman of 30 years is taken as the standard reference.
- This is affordable to a poor person or one defined as having an income of $1.9 a day.
Nutrient adequate diet
- This is the one where the required calorie norms and the stipulated requirement of 23 macro- and micro-nutrients are met. This diet includes least cost items from different food groups which costs $2.12 a day that is more than the international poverty line.
- If a person with income just above the poverty line spent her entire daily expenditure on food (ignoring fuel, transport, rent, medicines or any other expenditure), even then she would not be able to afford the nutrient-adequate diet.
- The SOFI Report assumes that a person cannot spend more than 63% of total expenditure on food (that is, 37% would be required for non-food essentials).
- This is one which meets the calorie norm and the macro- and micro-nutrient norm and also allows for consumption of a diverse diet, from several food groups.
- Defining a healthy diet is more complex than the other two diets, and the FAO uses actual recommendations for selected countries.
- The Indian recommendation includes consumption of items from six groups: starchy staples, protein-rich food (legumes, meat and eggs), dairy, vegetables, fruits, and fats.
- This costs $4.07 a day, or more than twice the international poverty line.
- In other words, a healthy diet is totally unaffordable for those with incomes at even twice the poverty line.
What is this healthy diet?
- It includes 30 gm of cereal, 30 gm of pulses, 50 gm of meat/chicken/fish and 50 gm of eggs, 100 gm of milk, 100 gm of vegetables and fruit each, and 5 gm of oil a day.
How does this translate into numbers of people?
- 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.
Eye opening messages for India
- Indian poverty lines of 2011-12, 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 (there has been no redefinition in the last decade) is thus lower than the international poverty line used in the SOFI Report.
Unaffordability of healthy diet
- Even those with incomes of twice the international poverty line cannot afford a healthy diet.
- Thus if we want to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity, we have to address the problem of affordability of healthy diets.
Inadequate government response
- Assuring at least one nutritious meal (with protein, fruits and vegetables) for the majority of our people particularly in this time of crisis is the responsibility of the government.
- Though the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana offers an additional 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of gram or lentils a month free of cost to all households with ration cards up to November 2020 this is utterly inadequate to address the massive and growing problem of malnutrition.