Uses for Cost of the Diet Data
The Cost of the Diet (CotD) is predominantly used as an advocacy tool to inform discussions on food, dietary diversity, nutrition and livelihoods.
As the software can calculate the cost of a nutritious diet for up to 6 seasons, the results can offer a unique perspective on seasonal changes in the price and availability of foods, identifying periods where households may be vulnerable to high food prices which affect their ability to afford a nutritious diet. This offers an insight for nutrition and health programme managers to assess when nutrition and food security interventions may have the greatest impact.
CotD foods can help to understand and identify:
CotD information can be used to:
Design nutrition and food security interventions aimed at improving the nutrient quality of the diet
Promote the least expensive nutrient sources
Increasing the availability of the currently expensive food groups, which in turn, could reduce their market price
In Burera district, Rwanda, avocado was identified as a cheap but rich source of energy, fat, vitamin C, soluble B group vitamins, folic acid and copper. Alternatively, yoghurt was identified as the cheapest source of vitamin B12, meeting 96% of total needs for the family and calcium providing 80% of the total need for the family.
Estimating the affordability of the diets by wealth group using HEA income and expenditure data can be used to identify those most at risk of insufficient economic access to a nutritious diet and, thus, most in need of food security and/or nutrition interventions.
This vital diet affordability data can also be used to estimate the size of cash transfers for social protection programmes intended to have an impact on nutrition. For example, a Cost of the Diet analysis in Lindi district, Tanzania, found that families in the poorest wealth group could not afford a nutritious diet, estimating that 115% of their total income would be needed to meet their energy and nutrient requirements.
One of the most innovative aspects of the CotD software is that potential interventions can be modelled to estimate their impact on improving the quality and the affordability of the diet. These results can be used to inform and influence nutrition and food security policies and programmes and contribute to both advocacy processes and debates at local, national and global levels.
A CotD analysis in Pakistan found that iron and zinc requirements could not be met by local foods for a 9-11 month old child. The impact of giving this child a sachet of micronutrient sprinkles twice a year for 30 days, six months apart on the quality of the diet was modelled. The software estimated that all the nutrient requirements for the child could be met and the cost of the diet could be reduced by 60% as a result of this intervention.
Early warning indicators
Regular CotD assessments can be used help understand changes in food and nutrition insecurity in particular contexts and can act as early warning indicators within food security and nutrition early warning systems.
A CotD analysis is most useful when chronic undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies have been identified as nutritional problems and when the availability or affordability of nutritious foods are likely to be among the underlying causes.