Major new project to study ways to improve access of poor to nutritious foods in India

A new research project to study ways in which poor communities in India can gain improved access to nutrient-dense foods in climate-friendly ways has been launched. The initiative will seek to support Indian policymakers with evidence that will help inform transformative policy action in delivering nutritious foods to the poor.

Researchers from the Institute of Sustainable Food and Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield will lead a research consortium in the new five-year INFUSION project - -Indian Food Systems for Improved Nutrition- - to develop and test innovative ideas focused on leveraging food markets in India to improve access of the poorest to nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables, and milk, meat and eggs.

Professor Bhavani Shankar, Principal Investigator of INFUSION, said: -Foods packed with important vitamins and minerals, such as many fruits and vegetables, and milk, meat and eggs, are vital to human nutrition.

-However, making them available and affordable to the poor presents major challenges, including high perishability in tropical regions such as India.

-Small and rudimentary local village markets are the main sources of these foods for the rural poor. Our project will study these markets, how the poor consumers interact with them, and how the chains from production to consumption function. Working with a range of stakeholders, the initiative will then examine how government action can best support food markets to deliver these important foods to boost nutrition in climate-friendly ways.-

Climate change issues are also central to the project, and INFUSION will be aiming to study interventions that not only improve nutrition, but also boost resilience to the changing climate while having a low environmental footprint.

Dr Gregory Cooper, Co-Investigator on the project, noted: -Markets for nutrient-dense foods are increasingly facing a perfect-storm of climate stresses, including more frequent extreme weather events, as well as decadal-scale changes in rainfall and temperature averages.

-In INFUSION, we will investigate how rural markets can be built and adapted to become relatively robust to the multiple threats of climate change, including through the use of innovative renewable energy cold storage solutions. Such interventions will potentially help to cut food loss and wastage rates, making rural markets more attractive to producers and consumers of nutrient-dense foods alike.-

Key University of Sheffield researchers involved in INFUSION include Professor Bhavani Shankar and Dr Gregory Cooper, both from the Department of Geography and members of the Institute for Sustainable Food.

Other partners joining the collaboration include the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK, and from India, the Indian School of Business, Microsave Consulting, National Institute of Nutrition and the National Institute for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research.

INFUSION is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK Government.

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