Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stomach Staples


The Article in Short:

"In India, for example, real incomes rose and the price of food fell between 1980 and 2005. Yet evidence suggests that Indians, even those who were originally eating less than recommended, reduced their calorie consumption in that time.

 Since calorific needs differ from person to person, a universal number is clearly only a guide. What’s more, concentrating on calories ignores the important role of micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins (see article). But the economists argue that this approach to measuring hunger also does not accord with how people themselves think about it. They propose a new way to use people’s eating choices to tell whether they are hungry.

The economists argue that the pain caused by hunger will prompt insufficiently nourished people to spend a larger share of their food budget on staples like rice and millet, which are cheap sources of calories. But once people are no longer hungry, they do not need to spend their incremental cash on the cheapest source of calories but can base their choices on things like variety and taste.

 By looking at the prices of various foods, it is possible to work out what share of a person’s calories would come from staples such as rice and wheat if he were trying to fulfil his dietary needs as cheaply as possible.
Someone who is consuming a significantly higher share of calories from staple foods than predicted is likely to be hungry.

The two measures also give opposing results about long-term trends in hunger. The average household in the sample got richer between 1991 and 2000, but the fraction that consumed less than the mandated daily number of 2,100 calories actually rose, from 53% to 67%. The share of calories coming from staples points in a different direction, however: by this measure, the number of hungry households dropped from 49% to 32% over this period."

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