Food security during pandemic times: Insights and perspectives from rural Bihar

COVID-19 and the government-enforced lockdown has adversely impacted peoples’ livelihoods. The impact of the lockdown is very severe in the rural areas due to closures, restricted farming, and other economic activities. In a poor state like Bihar where nearly 90 percent of the population lives in rural areas and out-migration numbers are extremely high, the flow of remittances has almost completely stopped. Except for a small number, an overwhelmingly large percentage of rural households have experienced a considerable loss of income. In a state where food insecurity was already high, insecurity is exacerbated due to the lockdown. In this context, the present study will explore the impact of the lockdown on various aspects of food security, i.e., availability, access, utilisation, and stability. More specifically, the study will explore the impact on consumption pattern, dietary diversity, and food-frequency of the rural households in Bihar and the effectiveness of food-related public programmes during the crisis.

The project aims to generate rapid telephonic survey-based information to assess the impact of COVID-19 on household food consumption and food security. The research on the impact of the pandemic on household food consumption is significant for several reasons. Firstly, to explore the extent to which it has affected availability and access to food of the rural households, Secondly, to understand to what extent has it affected different segments of the population such as labour households, cultivating households, migrant households, and other vulnerable groups. Thirdly, to examine the effectiveness of the public safety net programmes such as the Public Distribution System (PDS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and Midday Meal Scheme in reaching the beneficiaries during these unprecedented times.

The results of the study enable policymakers in making relevant changes in public policy in order to enhance the reach and effectiveness of existing public safety net programmes.

Outputs