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Food Insecurity Haunts Hills Of Kumaon 

A study suggests a shift from food entitlement to education, employment, and household composition to ensure food access to households in hilly terrains of rural Uttarakhand. 

There is an urgent need for location-specific interventions to address the critical issue of household food insecurity in the hilly terrains of rural Uttarakhand. That is the conclusion of researchers from Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, in a new study published in Ecology of Food and Nutrition.

The result is based on a survey of 155 households in rural-hilly areas of Kumaon, Uttarakhand using a cross-culturally validated Household Food Insecurity Access Scale.

Inadequate access to food both in terms of quantity and quality refers to food insecurity. Achieving food security is a global policy challenge in the view of population growth and limited resources. With a population of 1.01 crores, the state of Uttarakhand faces the challenge of migration, weak infrastructure, adverse climatic events, unemployment, and underdeveloped markets. Ensuring food security and food access to the state's inhabitants requires a coordinated framework of targeted policies and concerted actions. A healthy, balanced, and diverse diet can ensure both food and nutritional security. Availability, accessibility, stability, and utilization are the four pillars that entail the broad nature of food security. Integration of stakeholders from various sectors is required to develop a holistic framework for ensuring food access and food security.

More than half of the households, i.e., 63%, were food insecure in the reported study. One in every two families, at least one individual, consumed non-preferred kinds of foods. Due to a lack of resources, one out of four households ate undesirable food items. Inadequate food quality and lack of variety in the diet were identified as the primary food insecurity domain among the families. Lack of access to markets and lower incomes are two significant factors deteriorating food security and food access in the reported study. The study also assessed the dietary diversity of the households and found lower intakes of fruits, vegetables, and animal foods.

The researchers examined the association of household food insecurity with socio-demographic factors, socioeconomic status, and dietary diversity. They found that households below the poverty line have higher odds of experiencing food insecurity than households from the above poverty line. The presence of two or more children or adolescents in the family increased the odds of food insecurity four times. Similarly, the lower educational status of the household head, fewer employed family members, and lower social class raised the likelihood of experiencing food insecurity. Income, social class, employment, and poverty are the critical determinants of the accessibility dimension of food security identified in the present study. Similarly, educational status and household composition are essential domains of the utilization dimension of food security that emerged through the reported analysis.

The study highlights the need for a multisectoral approach to solving the problem of food insecurity. The research suggests modification in the objectives of food security policies in India. Shift from food entitlement to education, employment, and household composition is required to ensure food access to the households in hilly terrains of rural Uttarakhand.

(Nidhi Joshi is a Ph.D. scholar, and Dr. Rita Singh Raghuvanshi is a professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition, Govind Ballabh Pant University Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand)