Food consumption patterns and dietary diversity in eastern India: evidence from village level studies (VLS)


The level of diversity in household diets is an indirect measure of diet quality and the extent to which nutritional needs of households are being met. There is also a positive relationship between dietary diversity and the three pillars of food security, viz., availability, access and utilization. In the light of these statements, the paper reports on the patterns of food consumption and dietary diversity in 12 selected villages of eastern India with a view to understanding the heterogeneity in food habits, quality of diet intake and the socio-economic and demographic determinants of the dietary diversity in the region. There was significant disparity across the villages in terms of budgetary shares and intake levels of different food items. The level of heterogeneity in food intake was also reflected in the estimates of dietary diversity across villages. Multiple regression analysis on the determinants of dietary diversity showed that larger households with better-educated male heads and higher purchasing power fared well on dietary diversity scores. Access to the Public Distribution System (PDS) also contributed to enhancement of dietary diversity through an indirect route, as PDS beneficiaries are better able to afford diverse food items. In contrast, low social status in the form of affiliation to scheduled castes/scheduled tribes (SC/ST) diminished diversity scores. From a policy perspective, it is therefore important to focus interventions on improving dietary diversity and nutrition security with proper understanding of the socio-economic setting of the target area and its population.

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  1. 1.

    The state of Chhattisgarh is an exception, where the recent attempts to revitalize the PDS has brought about inspiring results. The state embraced a near universal PDS in the year 2005 and is highly successful in providing subsidized food grains with negligible levels of unauthorized leakages.

  2. 2.

    The VLS are longitudinal surveys initiated by ICRISAT in 1975 in 10 semi-arid tropical Indian villages. The surveys continued for the next 10 years, before formally closing in 1985 in response to budgetary pressure. The surveys were re-opened in 2002 in the initial six villages, starting with low frequency rounds and with higher frequency interviews since 2005–06. Subsequently in 2010, the programme was redesigned under the title, ‘Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA), extending the activities to Eastern India and Bangladesh. This initiative was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and implemented in India in collaboration with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) and other local organizations. The VLS data however cannot be treated as representative data for districts, states or the agro-climatic region within which the villages are located due to the relatively small sample coverage.

  3. 3.

    A recall period of 30 days is generally considered too long, particularly for studies related to dietary diversity. However, under VLS programme, the sample households are sensitized to keep a record of their day-today consumption on a regular basis with help of their female members. Unless migrated, these households remain in the VLS records as regular data suppliers as long as the programme continues in the region. The resident nature of investigators also helps in checking discrepancies in the data, so minimizing sampling bias.

  4. 4.

    The all-India average monthly consumption of various food items in rural areas as per the 66th round (2009–10) of National Sample Surveydata are; Cereals: 11.35 kg/capita; pulses: 0.65 kg/capita; oils: 0.65 kg/capita; vegetables: 4.04 kg/capita; fresh fruits: 0.91 kg/capita; milk: 4.12 kg/capita and meat, fish and egg: 0.59 kg/capita.

  5. 5.

    People belonging to upper-castes, particularly Brahmins are known to eat heavily in relation to others, irrespective of their economic status.

  6. 6.

    Cereals (mainly rice and wheat) constitute the major share of PDS supplies in India.

  7. 7.

    The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are official designations given to various groups of historically disadvantaged people in India.


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This paper is drawn from the research work undertaken in the Project ‘Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA)’ coordinated by ICRISAT with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The authors thank the BMGF for financial assistance and ICRISAT for the overall coordination, technical and administrative support. We are equally grateful to NCAP, a network partner under the project for facilitating data collection and other technical activities. The guidance extended by Dr. Ramesh Chand, Director, NCAP and Principal Investigator of the Project at NCAP is gratefully acknowledged. Comments and suggestions by Dr. Mruthyunjaya for improving the paper are appreciated. We are also indebted to other collaborating scientists in the project whose expert directions from time to time were useful in shaping the paper. The sustained cooperation of the farmer interviewees was critical to the success of the study and we owe a great deal to them. Technical and secretarial assistance from Mr. Shivjee, data collection and enumeration services from field staff and the comments and suggestions received from the participants of various seminars and conferences organized under the Project are also gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Shinoj Parappurathu.

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Appendix 1

Table 7 Socio-economic and demographic profile of sample households in Eastern India, 2011

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Parappurathu, S., Kumar, A., Bantilan, M.C.S. et al. Food consumption patterns and dietary diversity in eastern India: evidence from village level studies (VLS). Food Sec. 7, 1031–1042 (2015).

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  • Household food security
  • Food policy
  • Dietary diversity
  • Eastern India