Covid-19 lockdown negatively impacted diets for women in India: study

The 2020 nationwide lockdown in India due to the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the diet of women in the country, according to a study by a research group in the United States.

The study by the Tata Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Food in four economically underdeveloped districts of Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh, Munger in Bihar and Kandhamal and Kalahandi in Odisha shows a decrease in household food spending and the nutritional diversity of women in May 2020 compared to May 2019, especially for particularly non-staple foods such as meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits.

It occurred despite the special public distribution system (PDS), the direct benefit transfer and the ration of anganwadis reached 80 percent, 50 percent and 30 percent of the households surveyed, according to the study published in the latest issue of the journal Economia Politica.

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“Our findings add to the growing evidence of the disproportionate vulnerability of women to economic shocks, the impact of a staple-focused safety net and restricted markets on the access and availability of various nutritious foods,” the paper reads, which argues for political Reforms to diversify the PDS to include nutrient-rich foods and market reforms to remove supply-side bottlenecks and expand direct service transfers for access to healthy foods.

“Even before the pandemic, there was a lack of food in the diet of women, but Covid-19 made the situation even worse,” said Soumya Gupta, research economist at the TCI who wrote the study together with Prabhu Pingali, TCI director; Mathew Abraham, assistant director; and consultant Payal Seth.

“Any policy addressing the impact of the pandemic on nutritional outcomes must be done through a gender perspective that reflects the specific and often persistent vulnerabilities of women,” she said in a statement from Cornell University.

The researchers said policymakers should recognize the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and other disruptive events on women’s diets by strengthening safety net programs to ensure they meet the needs of women and other marginalized groups.