C05: Patterns and determinants of nutrition and food insecurity

India poses a puzzle of apparent decline or slow improvement in nutrition and food security despite rapid economic growth. We will study the prevalence and determinants of undernutrition and food insecurity in the rural-urban interface of Bangalore. Hundreds of millions of households worldwide are subject to the pressures and opportunities generated by urban expansion. How this affects the nutritional status of these households is an important and under-researched topic. Bangalore’s continued growth is pushing its rural-urban interface rapidly outward, creating a dynamic setting in which the challenges, incentives and opportunities facing households are evolving apace. Bangalore’s rural-urban interface therefore provides a unique setting for studying how nutrition and food security evolve as households respond and adjust to a changing environment.

Based on the experience and results achieved in Phase I of this project, we will pursue three main objectives in Phase II. First, we will seek to improve our understanding of the relationships between caloric intake, intakes of other nutrients (protein, vitamin A, iron and zinc), dietary diversity, socio-economic factors, and nutritional outcomes. Throughout, we will maintain a focus on the nutritional status of children and women of childbearing age. Since preliminary results suggest that many households in our survey consume relatively high-quality and varied diets, in Phase II we will broaden our focus of nutrition outcomes to also consider overnutrition and micronutrient deficiency (iron). Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure are some of the health risks associated with overnutrition. Therefore, along with anthropometric outcomes, we will carry out blood tests to collect information on blood sugar, lipids and haemoglobin levels. Second, we will analyse how a household’s decisions concerning different types of farm production (for sale, for own consumption) influence its nutritional status and food security. Since the majority of the households in the rural-urban interface of Bangalore have some mixture of farm and off-farm income, in Phase II we will focus more strongly on comprehensive models of household time and labour allocation. Third, we will continue to collaborate with other projects, for example to study the factors that affect the adoption of borewell technology by farmers in the rural-urban interface (with B02) or interactions between farming practices and pollinator populations (with B01).

In order to address these research objectives, we will collect panel data from 1275 households along two rural-urban transects of Bangalore. Building on the first wave of data collected in Phase I, we will contribute to the implemention of the second wave of the survey. With the cross-section data from the first wave of the survey we have been able to use spatial econometric techniques to analyse spatial heterogeneity and patterns in the rural-urban interface. The panel data that will result from the second wave of the survey will enable us to draw robust inferences concerning changes over time, and to adequately account for endogeneity and simultaneity in the analysis of variables that describe household characteristics, behaviour, and outcomes.

Phase I

Patterns and determinants of nutrition and food insecurity

India poses a puzzle of decline or slow improvement in nutrition and food security despite rapid economic growth. This puzzle is poorly understood and is clouded by inadequate data. There is a need for comprehensive household survey work that covers both consumption and anthropometric indicators to provide a sound basis for the measurement of food insecurity and undernutrition, and to provide a basis for robust analysis of their determinants and implications. The proposed work will directly address this need.The Indian income economic growth/undernutrition puzzle has not been studied explicitly in the rural-urban interface, where changes in incomes and lifestyles, and thus both consumptions needs and opportunities, are taking place at a particularly rapid pace. This project will study the prevalence of undernutrition and food insecurity in the rural-urban interface of Bangalore using a detailed, spatially explicit household survey of consumption and anthropometric data combined with other social and demographic indicators.

While generating insights into the patterns and determinants of food security and undernutrition in the rural-urban interface of Bangalore, we will focus three specific and interrelated topics. First, we will study the nutrition of women and the influence of mothers on nutritional outcomes. Second, we will study how disruptions in lifestyles and diets affect nutrition and food security. Third, we will explore how the specialization and commercialization of household food production varies over space and time in the rural-urban interface, and address the hypothesis that specialisation and commercialisation can lead to improvements in nutritional status by increasing incomes.Our work will be based on standard micro-econometric techniques for the analysis of cross-sectional (and later panel) household data. We will also draw on recent developments in non-parametric estimation and inference and in the estimation of threshold models. In addition, we will employ spatial econometric methods to analyse spatial patterns and spillovers in nutrition and food security and the factors that affect them.

Indian partner project:
Food insecurity at different stages of urbanisation
K.B. Umesh & B.V.C. Reddy, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore