Food consumption, calorie intake and undernourishment in India: the recent evidence on role of welfare schemes

Ranjan Ray, Kompal Sinha

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This paper focusses attention on the spatial differences in food consumption in India, examines differences in the pattern of consumption of the main food items between the major states and between the rural and urban areas within each state and reports the implied rates of undernourishment based on the unit records from the most recent (68th) round of the National Sample Survey. The spatial comparisons are supplemented by comparisons between the female-headed households, those belonging to scheduled castes and tribes and the rest. The study also contributes to the recent discussions on the effectiveness of the public distribution system (PDS) and the midday meal scheme (MDMS) as targeted systems that are designed to enhance food security and the welfare of the poor. This study provides strong evidence in favour of the MDMS by showing that, in the rural areas, the ‘prevalence of undernourishment’ (POU) rates recorded by households that report participation in the MDMS are sharply lower than those that do not. The evidence in case of PDS is, however, much more mixed. Notwithstanding the change in food habits in India due to the fast-changing lifestyle brought about by a rapid pace of growth, the PDS items, rice and wheat, still provide a dominant share of the total calorie intake by the household. The paper also explores the likely impact of the universal basic income (UBI) recently favoured by several leading economists and concludes that more work is required before UBI is adopted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisease, human Health, and Regional Growth and Development in Asia
EditorsAmitrajeet A. Batabyal, Yoshiro Higano, Peter Nijkamp
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9789811362682
ISBN (Print)9789811362675
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameNew frontiers in Regional Science: Asian Perspectives
ISSN (Print)2199-5974
ISSN (Electronic)2199-5982


  • undernourishment
  • public distribution system
  • midday meals
  • calories

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