173832 Decentralizing the World's Largest Supplementary Food Program: Policy Pitfalls & Spill-over Benefits

Wednesday, October 29, 2008: 9:10 AM

Maggie Huff-Rousselle, MA, MBA, PhD , Social Sectors Development Strategies, Inc., Boston, MA
Jack Fiedler, PhD , Social Sectors Development Strategies, Inc., Boston, MA
“The Asian Enigma” focused attention on the startling fact that childhood malnutrition in South Asia, and especially India, is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa. As one intervention to address childhood malnutrition, India's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) operates the world's largest supplementary nutrition program (SNP), and ICDS is in the process of "decentralizing" the SNP. A decentralized food model (DFM) that incorporates micro-finance and micro-enterprise approaches to community involvement and empowering marginalized groups -- by contracting women's self-help groups to produce the food for the SNP -- has been developed and tested in several states. In 2007, a major assessment identified the key lessons learned, and evaluated the potential for nation-wide scale-up. A variety of data sources were used for the assessment including documents, individual or group interviews and focus group discussions with over 100 stakeholders, direct observation of food production, quantitative program and financial data, and break-even analysis of the women's community-led micro-enterprises that were producing food locally. Using community-based women's self-help groups for the procurement, preparation and distribution of food under the ICDS SNP is feasible and desirable. The mechanism improves the quality and freshness of the food, and reduces stock-outs in the SNP pipeline. These micro-enterprise models offer remarkable "spill-over benefits" in empowering and alleviating poverty for the marginalized women who operate them. The DFM strategy using women's self-help groups should be scaled-up nation-wide, linked to existing women's empowerment and micro-enterprise programs, and managed carefully to secure maximum benefits. To avoid policy-related program failures, policy-makers need to be fully informed of the operational and financial realities at the grass-roots level, such as inadequate pricing for revisions in SNP recipes. Of the approaches assessed, the most successful: 1) integrated the poorest and most marginalized women; 2) converged with existing, non-health development programs that built skills in micro-credit and micro-enterprise and provided subsidized loans to women's self-help groups; and, 3) offered adequate price structures for the food recipes being produced.

Learning Objectives:
1)To define the "Asian Enigma" related to malnutrition; 2)To identify the potential benefits of decentralizing procurement and production within the world's largest supplementary nutrition program; 3)To describe the "spill-over benefits" of and "policy pitfalls" of decentralized food models operated as micro-enterprises by women’s groups.

Keywords: Community Participation, Self-sufficiency and Empowerment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the Team Leader for the research work described in the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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