Many policies and programs aim to bring healthier diets within reach, but lack standardized data about the cost and affordability of nutritious foods at each time and place. The Food Prices for Nutrition project is a four-year, $3 million effort (Oct. 2020 – Sept. 2024) to equip governments and development agencies with accurate, updated metrics to monitor diet costs and affordability to inform agricultural and food systems interventions. This work is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UKAid from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as INV-016158.

Food Prices for Nutrition aims to scale up use of diet cost metrics developed by two previous projects, Changing Access to Nutritious Diets in Africa and South Asia (CANDASA, 2017-20) and Indicators of Affordability for Nutritious Diets in Africa (IANDA, 2015-17). Our work provided diet cost and affordability estimates presented in the UN agencies’ SOFI 2020 and SOFI 2021 reports, and is now included in the suite of food security indicators monitored at the global level. Our work has also been widely disseminated in peer-reviewed journal articles and dialogue with international agencies and national governments. 

The need for this project, and the specific metrics we have developed and applied to guide action, are illustrated by the figure below. Our work identifies how food prices create a ladder of diet qualities that are affordable to a given population at each time and place. The diet cost metrics we use, as summarized on the Metrics page, measure the magnitude of the barriers preventing people from accessing diets that meet their needs. Our metrics assess whether the food system brings healthy diets within reach of the poor, as a complement to other research about peoples’ food choices among the options they can afford.

The Food Prices for Nutrition project promotes the use of food price data, particularly the abundant data already collected by national governments for measuring inflation, to be used to monitor the cost and affordability of a healthy diet. The cost of a healthy diet, our main monitoring indicator, moves beyond nutrients to recommended diets, as the minimum cost to meet food-based dietary guidelines. Dietary guidelines acknowledge that diet patterns provide benefits beyond their individual nutrient components and provide a behaviorally realistic way to meet nutrient needs and other dietary needs (proportionality, culture, protection of long-term health).  Our metrics can inform policy for improved nutrition across agriculture, nutrition, health, and other systems.

The Food Prices for Nutrition project is a close collaboration between Tufts University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the International Comparison Programme (ICP) global office at the World Bank. We also collaborate actively with a wide range of other partners in selected countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Tanzania, supporting work on whether and how local and regional food systems bring healthy diets within reach.

Our work is implemented by three complementary partners, in pursuit of the project purpose and four objectives summarized by this figure:

Through this project we aim to support the use of food prices by national governments, international organizations, educational institutions, and civil society, using new metrics to transform food systems and achieve global development goals for nutrition and health. Our whole team is listed here. We look forward to working with you!

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