ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Deploying the Power of Social Protection to Improve Nutrition

What Will It Take?

The nutritional status of women and children in India continues to be poor. In this paper, we discuss how three major flagship social protection government programmes—the Targeted Public Distribution System, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act—can be made more nutrition sensitive. We discuss three potential approaches to making these programmes deliver better nutrition outcomes. These are strengthening governance and operations so that the programmes achieve their basic goals of improving food security and poverty; integrating nutrition goals and actions for each of these programmes; and leveraging the reach and scale of these programmes to also deliver specific nutrition interventions via these programmes, especially the tpds.


This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets led by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Funding support for this study was provided by PIM and the Department for International Development through the Transform Nutrition Research Consortium. The authors would like to thank an anonymous referee for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


In the post-liberalisation era, many social protection programmes were either instituted or strengthened by the Indian government. However, various government efforts to improve the nutrition status through its various social protection schemes have had mixed results. There has been a steady decline in childhood stunting, but at a lower rate than desirable; levels of anaemia have remained stagnant; and decline in adult undernutrition have been offset by sharp increases in adult overweight and obesity (Joe et al 2016; Aguayo et al 2016; Avula et al 2016; IIPS 2007, 2015; Census 2014). Recent analyses have also highlighted how states differ both in their levels of malnutrition and in the patterns of change over time (Menon et al 2017; Raykar et al 2015). Figure 1 shows the current status of five of the six nutrition indicators that India have committed to address as part of the Sustainable Development Goals and demonstrates how this status varies across states.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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