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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

COVID-19 Lockdowns Hurt Women’s Nutrition Security

This policy brief presents the findings of a TCI study analyzing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the availability of non-staple and staple foods, as well as its effect on women’s diet diversity at the national, state, and district levels in four economically challenged districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha. The study shows that food expenditures significantly declined, especially in less developed districts. The surveys also suggest a decrease in the quantity and quality of nutritious foods consumed by women.

Based on these results, TCI recommends that policymakers:

  • Diversify PDS offerings beyond wheat and rice to include micronutrient-rich foods like coarse grains and pulses.
  • Expand services provided through Anganwadi centers, such as hot-cooked meals and take-home rations, to ensure that vulnerable members within households have access to micronutrient-rich foods.
  • Bolster direct benefit transfer and cash transfer schemes like MNREGA to shield households from income loss and support food access.
  • Invest in improved infrastructure for perishable food supply chains to maintain price stability and improve availability of micronutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Design safety-net programs and rural development programs with a focus on redressing women’s unequal access to food.

Read the policy brief (PDF)