In the Global Hunger Index 2020, India fell in the category of ‘serious hunger’, ranking 94th among 107 countries. Given that the GHI estimate did not account for the effect of COVID-19 on hunger, child mortality and child undernutrition, the situation is likely to have worsened1. Globally, recent estimates show a considerable increase in hunger under the shadow of the pandemic—as many as 161 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019. The moderate or severe food insecurity has also increased from 2.05 to 2.37 billion globally and half of this population (1.2 billion) reside in Asia2.
The Covid-19 lockdown in India induced changes in consumption expenditure and caused a reduction in diets. A study covering 12 states found that 50% of rural India reduced the number of meals ever since the lockdown was imposed3. Covid-19 also had a gendered impact on nutrition security. One study noted a decline in dietary diversity for women in India, particularly for non-staple foods compared to pre-lockdown levels, suggesting a need for reforms such as the inclusion of nutrition-rich foods in the PDS program, removal of supply-side barriers and expansion of direct benefit transfers for access to healthy food4. The impact of Covid-19 on the food system shows the criticality of not just the food availability but other dimensions of food security as well. A review that assessed documents of 62 countries, including India, observed that the risk to food security did not come from supply chain disruptions, but from the devastating effects of COVID-19 on livelihood and it is the combined decline in both economic and physical access that led to degradation in household food purchases in 20205.
The pandemic underlines the need to adopt approaches that provide resilience to shocks and disruptions6. Home gardening is one approach that has advanced food and nutritional security during and after the pandemic by ensuring accessibility and availability to nutritious food7. In the month of September, the Indian government also has promoted the nutrition gardening approach as part of the Poshan Maah 2021 celebrations8. The PoshanCOVID19 monitoring pages features state-level developments including any measures adopted by the respective state and central governments to alleviate the situation.
To understand the state of nutrition and food security in India, more accurate information is required but there are data gaps and a reduction in monitoring coverage during the pandemic. In this context, the PoshanCOVID19 initiative aims to aid policy and planning by maintaining a repository of information on child nutrition and maternal health and related topics in the context of COVID-19. The resources page is an archive for COVID-19 related resources on nutrition, early childhood development and food security. The monitoring page of the website tracks information from surveys, rapid assessments and information systems to showcase developments at state and national levels.
1. Grebmer, K., Bernstein, J., Wiemers, M., Acheampong, K., Hanano, A., Higgins, B., Chéilleachair, R., Foley, C., Gitter, S., Ekstrom, K & Fritschel, K. (2020). 2020 Global Hunger Index. One Decade to Zero Hunger-Linking Health and Sustainable Food Systems.
2. FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, FAO.
3. PRADAN, Action for Social Advancement, BAIF, Transform Rural India Foundation, Grameen Sahara, SAATHI – UP and The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme. (2020). COVID-19 induced Lockdown – How is the Hinterland Coping?. People’s Archive of Rural India
8. Ministry of Women and Child Development . (2021). ‘Thematic’ POSHAN Maah To Be Celebrated Across The Nation Throughout The Month Of September As Part Of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. PIB. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1750104