New study: Effects of lean-season food transfers on children’s diets and household food security

(IFPRI/M.Mitchell, 2016)

A newly published study in the Journal of Nutrition uses evidence from a quasi-experiment in Malawi to examine the effectiveness of social programs, such as food transfers, on the quantity and quality of food consumed by poor households. 

The aim of the study was to assess the impact of a lean-season food transfer on household food security, diet, and nutrition status of young children during the lean season in Malawi and to understand processes through which transfers operated. The methodology included a longitudinal, quasi-experimental study based on 2 survey rounds in the Zomba district in Malawi. Data were collected from 60 communities randomly selected among food-insecure villages. Twenty households were randomly selected for interviews within each community. The study's key outcomes included household expenditures, food consumption, child-level dietary diversity, and nutritional status. We followed a mixed-methods approach involving child- and household-level assessments, as well as interviews with community stakeholders.

The study found that the per capita effect of food transfers on food expenditure was estimated at 36 Malawian kwachas/d, corresponding to an increase of 19% from baseline. There was evidence of increased iron availability in household intake. Highly significant effects were found on children's dietary diversity score, corresponding to an increase of 15%, as well as a positive effect on weight-for-height z scores.

The results indicate that during the lean season in food-insecure settings, where important declines in food insecurity, diet quality, and nutrition status are present, food transfers may have a protective effect on household food security and diets of young children.

The study was co-written by Aulo Gelli (IFPRI), Noora-Lisa Aberman (IFPRI-Malawi), Amy Margolies (Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University), Marco Santacroce (IFPRI), Bob Baulch (IFPRI-Malawi), and Ephraim Chirwa (Chancellor College, University of Malawi) - 2017.

Download and read the full study here.