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Monday, November 25, 2019 at 12:15pm
Uris Hall, G08
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) remains a major malnutrition concern in many areas in rural India, particularly among women, children, and other vulnerable populations. The most sustainable and effective strategy to reduce VAD is diversification of diet to include more vitamin-A (VA) rich fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods. The orange-flesh sweet potato (OFSP) can meet the VA requirements of a child with just a 1/3 cup serving per day, requires minimal inputs as a crop, and can be shared easily through vine cuttings. A three-arm randomized trial was conducted to test the most effective strategies to increase the production and consumption of OFSP in fifteen villages in rural Uttar Pradesh. The results of this study indicate that OFSP is a viable solution towards improving vitamin A sufficiency in diet, and that receiving nutrition education does not significantly alter the likelihood of OFSP production or consumption. Rather, production is mediated by agricultural factors such as availability of land, planting material, and time, as well as the experiences of friends and neighbors in producing good harvests.
With continued high prevalence of undernutrition and increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity, India is facing the double-burden of malnutrition. Typical Indian diets tend to consist mostly of staple grains, such as rice and wheat, and fewer micronutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables, however, are more perishable compared to other food groups, and are more at risk of quantity and quality food loss. This loss of nutrients in the food system contributes to the existing supply gap to meet nutrition recommendations and is a priority area in aligning food systems for food and nutrition security. An observational study is currently being carried out in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad, Telangana to develop metrics for measuring food loss of perishable vegetables, with a focus on tomatoes. Quantitative and qualitative methods are used to collect data from tomato farmers, wholesalers and vendors across the research sites. Once developed, the use of these metrics will inform progress towards food loss reduction efforts that leverage vegetable value chains to improve food and nutrition security.
Kathryn Merckel is a Tata-Cornell Scholar and PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration on international nutrition and development economics. She is a member of the Tata-Cornell Institute (TCI) research group, which she first joined in 2013 while completing her Master’s degree in International Development at Cornell. Previously, she studied Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where she studied food security in Tanzania as a David L. Boren Scholar. Her current research—supported by both TCI and a Fellowship for Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS)—is on the effectiveness of nutrition and agricultural interventions to promote bio-fortified crops to farmers and families in rural India. She studies how adoption of micronutrient-rich crops translates to diversified diets and improved nutrition for women and children, using aspects of social marketing and nutrition behavior change to design interventions that reach their target audience, leading to lasting improvements in health.
Jocelyn Boiteau is a Tata-Cornell Scholar, and PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences with concentrations in food science and methods of social research. Jocelyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University, and completed her dietetic internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After becoming a registered dietitian, Jocelyn briefly worked with a local NGO in Rajasthan, India on agriculture and nutrition activities. Before returning to Cornell, Jocelyn worked as the Project Administrator for the Food Aid Quality Review at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Jocelyn’s current work, supported by the Tata-Cornell Institute, seeks to develop metrics for measuring quantity and quality food loss along perishable vegetable value chains. Her research focuses on tomato value chains in India to determine estimates and determinants of quantity loss from farm to retail stages, as well as losses in nutritional quality and sensory attributes.
For more information about Kathryn Merckel's work with Prof. Prabhu Pingali andthe Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition, please read this article in the Cornell Chronicle by Jonathan Miller.