JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on household diet diversity in rural Bihar, India: a longitudinal survey.

Nutrition Journal 2023 Februrary 28
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted livelihoods and diets across the world. This study aimed to assess changes in household diet diversity and food consumption between the pre-COVID-19 period (December 2019-January 2020) and during the lockdown (March-May 2020), and to identify the socio-economic characteristics that determine these changes in rural Bihar, India.

METHODS: Households that had provided their phone numbers in the pre-COVID-19 household survey (n = 1797) were contacted for interviews during the lockdown telephonic survey in a longitudinal survey in two districts (Gaya and Nalanda) in Bihar. In total, 939 households were interviewed. Using data on food consumption from both surveys, 876 households were included in the analysis. Food and Agriculture Organization's household diet diversity score (HDDS) was used to compare diet diversity between the pre-COVID-19 period and during the lockdown. Logistic regression was used to identify factors affecting household diet diversity and food consumption in the study households.

RESULTS: Low diet diversity increased from 51.6% (95% CI 48.3-54.9) to 75.8% (95% CI 73.0-78.6) from the pre-COVID-19 to the lockdown period. Reduced food consumption was reported across all foods with nearly a quarter of the households reporting reduced consumption of fruits (27%), pulses (25%) and cereals (21%). Nearly 60% and above reported stopping consumption of nutrient-rich foods such as chicken, fish and eggs although the population was predominantly non-vegetarian. Logistic regression analysis revealed that taking a loan from neighbours/relatives (OR = 1.8; 95% CI 1.3-2.5) and belonging to lower social groups (OR = 1.8; 95% CI 1.1-2.9) increased odds of low HDDS. While those possessing ration cards had lower odds of reduced consumption of all food items, it was not associated with stopping consumption of any food item. In an unadjusted analysis, receipt of cash transfer during lockdown was also not associated with diet diversity (OR = 1.2; 95% CI 0.9-1.7).

CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 has impacted the consumption of nutrient-rich foods among already low-income rural households in India. Maintaining diet diversity among socio-economically vulnerable households during periods when food consumption is most threatened by shocks such as COVID-19 would need sustained government support in terms of social protection coverage and benefit transfers in rural communities.

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