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Nationally representative estimates of the cost of adequate diets, nutrient level drivers, and policy options for households in rural Malawi

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  • Schneider, Kate R.

Abstract

A growing literature uses least-cost diets to evaluate how effectively a food system supports access to nutritious foods. We identify the cost of meeting nutrient requirements for whole households in rural Malawi from and the nutrient-level drivers thereof. From 2013 to 2017, we can identify a household least-cost diet only 60% of the time with an average cost of $2.32/person/day (2011 US$ PPP). We illustrate that larger households have more diverse nutrient needs and face a higher cost for 1000 calories of a sufficiently nutrient dense diet. Shadow price analysis shows riboflavin to be the costliest nutrient in the market. We use policy scenarios to understand what drives the infeasibility and high cost. Simulating the impact of selenium soil biofortification of maize results in a feasible diet 94% of the time at half the cost ($1.22/person/day on average) and eliminates the shadow price of copper. This is explained by insufficient selenium from sources low in copper such that under baseline conditions it is impossible to get enough selenium without too much copper. Even when feasible, to avoid copper, more higher cost foods enter the diet than would be otherwise needed to meet remaining nutrient requirements. Other value chain scenarios to increase the availability and lower the cost of nutrient-dense foods did not meaningfully change the diet cost results. Of direct relevance to Malawi, this study demonstrates more broadly how least-cost diet methods can be used to assess barriers to accessing an adequate diet and the potential impacts of policy options.

Suggested Citation

  • Schneider, Kate R., 2022. "Nationally representative estimates of the cost of adequate diets, nutrient level drivers, and policy options for households in rural Malawi," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 113(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:113:y:2022:i:c:s0306919222000550
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2022.102275
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    Cited by:

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    2. Azomahou, Théophile T. & Boucekkine, Raouf & Kazianga, Harounan & Korir, Mark & Ndung'u, Njuguna, 2022. "Guest Editors’ Introduction: The role of policy in reducing malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 113(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Least-cost diets; Nutrient requirements; Shadow prices; Policy modeling; Linear programming; Nutritious diets; Biofortification;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy; Animal Welfare Policy

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