Food systems for healthier diets in Bangladesh: Towards a research agenda
This discussion paper (PDF) by IFPRI identified a large set of research questions that, if answered, could shed light on both how the food system in Bangladesh works, and the rate of change of food system transformation in Bangladesh. The national food system of Bangladesh has made substantial progress since experiencing famine in 1974. After the famine, the government placed a strong emphasis on policies required to attain grain self-sufficiency; since attaining self-sufficiency, the production system, policies related to it, and resulting diets have begun to diversify. Nonetheless, undernutrition remains a problem, and fruit and vegetable consumption are inadequate for most people relative to international recommendations. Moreover, as the food system has begun to transition towards a modern one, challenges related to food safety and perceived food adulteration have begun to rise. Further, increased processed food intakes are potentially associated with existing rising overweight and obesity status. Both government interventions and innovations are needed to help shift the national food system to improve nutrient-dense food availability, particularly among the poor, and to limit the increase in processed food consumption. Healthy diets must start with agriculture, beginning from choices related to production and cropping systems, and following through to the ways that foods are processed, preserved, and marketed. The potential of food systems for improved nutrition needs to be promoted to contribute to the economic efficiency, conservation of nutrients and enhanced quality and diversity of diets. Identified research questions include: 1) How rapidly will dietary diversity continue to increase on its own? Will it begin to change among the relatively poor? ; 2) Are changes in food availability changing intrahousehold allocations of food, particularly more nutrient dense food?; 3) How is the production of nutrient dense foods changing in Bangladesh? What changes to production patterns could be enhanced to fill dietary gaps?; 4) How can cold storage be placed geographically to most effectively increase availability of more nutritious foods, or maintain nutrient density within harvested crops for longer?