Economía Agroalimentaria

Recent webinar sheds light on a new modeling framework for computing changes in healthy diet unaffordability


Chronic hunger continues to affect an estimated 738 million people worldwide, according to mid-range estimates from The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 report. However, an equally critical concern alongside hunger is the affordability of healthy diets.

The issue of healthy diet affordability has been closely monitored since its introduction in The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report. It not only assesses the quality of diets and their nutritional implications but also highlights the accessibility aspect of food security and nutrition. Shockingly, in 2021, 3.1 billion people struggled to afford a healthy diet.

Recognizing that modeling healthy diet unaffordability is pivotal for global food security and nutrition, a webinar held by the Technical Network of Poverty Analysis (THINK-PA) on 10 October 2023, presented a  framework that combines general equilibrium models with household-level microdata to estimate Healthy Diets Unaffordability.

The framework utilizes the MIRAGRODEP computable general equilibrium model and the POVANA dataset, which consists largely of LSMS survey data from 31 countries. The dataset includes information from over 300 000 representative households, offering invaluable insights into income sources and expenditure patterns.

During the webinar, David Laborde, Division Director (ESA), provided participants with practical examples of how this framework can assess the impact of complex shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on healthy diet affordability. Additionally, he demonstrated how food and agricultural policies, aimed at both producers and consumers, can be reformulated to make healthy diets more affordable, including the elimination of subsidies.

However, it's important to note that the approach requires careful consideration, not only in interpreting the results but also in critically reviewing the underlying assumptions. One of the main topics of discussion was whether modeled Healthy Diets Unaffordability serves as a positive or normative measure. Laborde argued that the measure is normative, given its strong focus on what people should consume rather than what they have consumed, and the emphasis on normative shares of food consumption.

Factors such as expenditure shares, homegrown consumption, and the availability of food price data, including household unit values and homogeneous market prices, represent significant challenges in enhancing the measure. Consequently, it is not advisable to refer to Healthy Diet Unaffordability as a poverty measure.

The webinar was an insightful exploration of the multifaceted issue of healthy diet affordability and presented a valuable tool for policymakers and researchers alike. In a world where access to nutritious food remains a challenge for billions, initiatives like these play a crucial role in addressing global food security and nutrition concerns.