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المنتدى العالمي المعني بالأمن الغذائي والتغذية

Re: Nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes around the world – What’s being done and to what effect?

Jane SHERMAN
Jane SHERMANNutrition education consultant, ex-FAOItaly

Though posts have been few so far, we have had a really interesting spread on this really interesting subject, and I have appreciated all of them very much. The pictures of the children and the eggs were especially nice  - thank you, Dr Emal,  and thank you for telling us a tale where the eggs went into the family meals and not just to the market.

Social security schemes seem to be a foundation stone of social democracy and I don't see a lot of difference from social protection schemes (maybe someone can correct me).  However, I'm bypassing the question of whether such strategies should be put in place by governments to redress inequity.  I am also risking the wrath of Claudio Schuftan by flying the flag for food education, which in my vision is everyone's birthright, especially in view of the nutrition transition and the present power of Big Food. 

Bringing social protection and food education together, I would like to raise three points:  

The first, which now has quite a lot of supporting evidence, is that many interventions aiming at increasing food security (including social protection handouts, food vouchers, income generation, agricultural projects etc.) fail to have a significant impact on nutrition status because they simply enhance existing inadequate dietary profiles and patterns of household expenditure. Adding a little food education to the mix can significantly tilt the outcomes of such actions towards better family diet. The best-known case in social protection is probably that of SNAP in the USA, which found it necessary to create SNAP-ED to introduce the missing education component.  

The second is about how we measure nutrition status.  In one major social protection scheme the indicator selected was dietary diversity. This was shown to be increased by regular cash handouts, mainly because most households enjoyed their higher income by eating more meat. This was all to the good, but they did not at the same time eat more fruit and vegetables, in which their diet was also deficient, and which were equally important to improving nutrition status, nor was dietary varied assessed.  Meat generally has status in poor communities and vegetables do not, while fruit is often regarded as a non-food, nice but not necessary.  I am asking if our indicators are sufficiently sensitive to the concept of a good diet.

My third question is Why are we not hearing from the social protection people?  

Jane Sherman, nutrition education consultant, FAO