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

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Dietary Diversity during COVID-19 in India

The article reports the findings on the changing dietary patterns of Indian households during COVID-19, based on an analysis of the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey. The impact of the pandemic on diet composition was most severe for the poor and the deprived, who substituted inferior cereals for expensive cereals and spent lower amounts on nourishing foods such as fruits and vegetables.

The COVID-19 pandemic which began as a global public health crisis gradually unfolded into a global economic and humanitarian crisis, and unravelled into a food security emergency. Disruptions to the food systems due to the pandemic relate to both the production side (food production, processing, and distribution) and demand side (economic and physical access to food). The supply chain disruptions affecting availability and prices of certain foods, economic stressors such as income and job losses and lifestyle changes such as more time spent at home, and reduction in outdoor recreational activities, including eating out, affect food consumption preferences. Mobility restrictions that also resulted in a spurt of online food deliveries, proliferation of ready to eat and cooked and packaged foods in retail outlets, especially in urban areas, potentially influence the composition of diets.

The last few decades have witnessed dietary transition in economies across the world. Rapid economic growth, urbanisation and globalisation have resulted in dietary shifts in Asia, away from staples and increasingly towards livestock and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and fats and oils (Kaicker et al 2018). These dietary changes reflect the interaction of demand and supply factors. Demand factors include: rapid income growth and urbanisation, bringing about new dietary needs, and, more generally, growing affluence and lifestyle changes. Expansion of the middle class, higher participation by women in the workforce, the emergence of nuclear two-income families, and a sharp age divide in food preferences (with younger age groups more susceptible to new foods advertised in the media) underlie the demand. On the supply side, the main factors associated with availability of food are: closer integration of global economies, severance of the link between local production and availability of food, liberalisation of foreign direct investment, with a new role for multinational corporationsespecially supermarkets and fastfood outletsand a sharp reduction in freight and transportation costs (Gaiha et al 2014).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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