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An MTK-related Costing Case Study from Punjab

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

TIGR2ESS-FP6: The Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) in India Series

March 2023

Authors: Suveera Gill, Harmanpreet Kaur, Wanja Nyaga, Sarah Armes

Editors: Sumantra (Shumone) Ray, Ramya Rajaram

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge and thank key individuals from Panjab University and NNEdPro, for their time and resources towards this project.

‘Economics’ is a factor that could affect the nutrition status and health of an individual. In developing countries like India, economic statuses such as purchasing power and affordability influence people's food choices, which in turn affects Nutritional Health. Health, Nutrition, and Spending Power form a TRIAD which is mainly neglected by both “Economists and Health Professionals.”

The project, Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS) brought together a team that thinks out of the box and is dedicated to bringing about positive changes in and around them with innovative ideas of research and action plans.

One such distinctive study design was put forward by Suveera Gill (Business Management Professor from Panjab University) and the team to connect the dots between the two most related and untouched topics of Nutrition and Costing. In this context, the cost of two North Indian vegetarian Thalis (platter), both for lunch and dinner for moderately active females and males, was planned and calculated, keeping in mind the sustainability of the ingredients (organic vis-a-vis conventional) used in the meal preparation. The quantities and nutritional value of dishes for preparing Thalis were based on the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Nutrition, 2020) Dietary Guidelines. DietCal - an Indian professional dietary assessment and planning software based on the ICMR-NIN and Nutritics - software developed in London, was used for nutritional calculations. The study aimed to quantify what it costs a representative four-member household to prepare two full, balanced meals daily as agriculture can address nutritional and health problems by providing good quality harvests at affordable prices (Welch and Graham, 1999).

Various studies (Magkos et al., 2003; Rosen, 2010 & Vigar et al., 2019) prove that organic food is tastier, more nutritious, and healthier as the bioavailability of nutrients is more than conventional food. But consumer awareness about this is scarce and is a definitive need of the hour. In India, organic farming is being practised by small and marginal farmers using biological fertilisers, derived from animal and plant wastes. However, organic food often has low yields with high production costs, making it more expensive for the general population. Thus, the trade-off between sustainability and affordability challenges the food system.

Due to the lack of awareness in this field, both acceptance and practice are insufficient. With changes in the climate and its adverse effect on health, food choices, and livelihoods, we should consider changing our farming practices so that everyone can afford a healthy and nutritious diet. For sustainable development of the environment, health, and livelihood, providing support for organic farming by making favourable policies is an urgent requirement. We need to develop markets and facilitate linkages of production to consumption that benefits producers, consumers, and the environment. This value chain across the food system has been lacking in India, and added insight through further research can facilitate a planning strategy to move forward. This baseline study has contributed to unravelling the relationship between the healthfulness and cost of food nudging exploration in alternate contexts.

To support the study further with evidence, NNEdPro has planned to include the concept of sustainability and costing in the new version of our Mobile Teaching Kitchens (MTK) cookbook 2.0, which will be launched by next year.

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