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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Ground Truthing the Cost of Achieving the EAT Lancet Recommended Diets: Evidence from Rural India


In this paper, we quantify the divergence in the cost of current diets as compared to EAT Lancet recommendations at the subnational-level in India. We use primary data on food prices and household food purchases, and secondary data on food expenditures for a period of 12 months in 2018–19. The cost of the EAT Lancet dietary recommendations for rural India ranges between $3.00- $5.00 per person per day. In contrast, actual dietary intake at present is valued at around $1.00 per person per day. In order to get to the EAT Lancet recommendations individuals will have to spend nearly $1.00 per person per day more on each of meat fish poultry, dairy foods and fruits. The deficit in current diets relative to recommendations is marked by seasonal variations driven by volatility in the underlying food prices. This paper extends the evidence base for the affordability of the EAT Lancet diet to a subnational-level in India, using the most recent data on prices and expenditures, over time. We highlight the need for tracking rural markets at the subnational level, over time for their nutritional quality and ability to provide affordable, nutritious diets to the poor. Crop diversification, investments in rural infrastructure and well-functioning markets can move rural India towards more nutrition sensitive food environments.

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