IRIN Global | Analysis: Do subsidies improve nutrition? | Global | Indonesia | Economy | Food Security | Health & Nutrition
Not necessarily, said Crosby from Save the Children. “The causes of malnutrition are numerous and complex. People need more than simply to be able to afford enough food; they need to afford the right types of food. Governments must invest in the provision of direct nutritional interventions including education and support for correct breastfeeding practices.”
Far from being a “magic bullet” to solving hunger, consumer subsidies may actually hurt rural producers who lose income in a programme that directs business to a limited number of vendors, Crosby added.
According to an economics study published in 2011 on 1,300 households in China that received food subsidies for five months, while the surveyed ate more food, their nutrition intake changed little or worsened.
In Hunan Province, most who received the subsidies opted to buy more fish - typically expensive relative to other foods - and less rice, pulses and spinach, leading to a net decline of both calories and vitamins in their diets.
The researchers concluded “policymakers may have to be satisfied with knowing that giving wealth to the poor improves their welfare,” but not their nutrition because most households purchased “the less nutritious foods that wealthier households consume”.
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University of Cape Town