This year, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI 2020) was released on July 13.
- A new feature of SOFI 2020 is a detailed analysis of the “cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world”.
- New analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization shows that many people in India even above the international poverty line ($1.90) cannot afford a healthy or nutritious diet.
3 types of diets as laid down by SOFI 2020
1) 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.
2) Nutrient adequate diet.
In this 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.
3) Healthy diet.
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.
Lessons that the report gave us:
The energy-sufficient diet costs around 80 cents a day in South Asia.
- So, it is affordable to a poor person or one defined as having an income of $1.9.
- The nutrient-adequate diet costs $2.12 a day. This is more than the international poverty line.
- The healthy diet 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.
- The Indian poverty line of 2011-12, as defined by the Tendulkar Committee, amounted to ₹33 per day in urban areas and ₹27 per day in rural areas.
- This 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.
Way ahead based on the learnings:
- Those we officially count as poor in India cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet let alone a healthy diet. This result is completely contrary to the view that the poverty line in India “may not permit a comfortable existence, including a balanced diet, (but) allows above subsistence existence.”
- Even those with incomes of twice the international poverty line cannot afford a healthy diet. If we want to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity, we have to address the problem of affordability of healthy diets.