Enhancing Nutrition Security via India's National Food Security Act: Using an Axe instead of a Scalpel?

India Policy Forum. 2015 Aug 5:11:67-113. Epub 2015 Aug 17.


In September 2013, India passed a historic National Food Security Act. This paper examines the potential impact of the two central pillars of this act - expansion of the Public Distribution System and strengthening of the Integrated Child Development Schemes - on child nutrition. Using new data from the India Human Development Survey of 2011-12, this paper shows that access to subsidized grains via PDS is not related to improved child nutrition, and while ICDS seems to be related to lower child undernutrition, it has a limited reach in spite of the universalization of the program. The paper suggests that a tiered strategy in dealing with child undernutrition that starts with the identification of undernourished children and districts and follows through with different strategies for dealing with severe, acute malnutrition, followed by a focus on moderate malnutrition, could be more effective than the existing focus on cereal distribution rooted in the NFSA.

Keywords: Child health; Food security; ICDS; Malnutrition; Public distribution system.