Undernutrition remains one of the world’s greatest human and economic development challenges. One in four children under 5 years of age suffers from stunting, or chronic undernutrition, which is caused by poor quality and quantity diets, inappropriate care and feeding practices in early life, and high rates of infectious disease. Poor nutrition can result in an inter-generational cycle of undernutrition, since undernourished women are more likely to give birth to children that begin life nutritionally disadvantaged and are more likely to be stunted by the age of five years and more likely to grow into short and disadvantaged adults.
Traditional dietary practices are changing fast in many countries as populations age and urbanize, and as the consumption of industrially or locally processed foods increases. Little is currently known about the factors that have led to changes in dietary practices in poor countries and this information is needed to understand better the relative importance of these factors in shaping population food and nutrition security. This knowledge will allow an understanding of the potential impact of different intervention and policy options such as agricultural productivity, fiscal and monetary policy instruments, value chain modifications and behavior change communication.
This research program initiates an important new area of research for DFID and the foundation on food choice in poor countries. The program will contribute qualitative and quantitative evidence to guide on-going and future programs and research activities to improve food and nutrition security in poor countries.
Research activities and outputs resulting from this program will also be coordinated with relevant ongoing initiatives supported by DFID and the foundation including the Nutrition Embedding Evaluation Program (NEEP), the Innovative Metrics and Methods in Agriculture for Nutrition Program (IMMANP), and the technical assistance program Improving Nutrition Outcomes Through Optimized Agricultural Interventions. This coordination will be used to minimize duplication of research activities and to ensure that newly commissioned research builds on the emerging evidence.
Scope and Approach
We are looking to invest in one organization through this Request for Application (RFA). This organization will design and run a competitive small grants program that solicits applications from a diverse set of organizations as sub-grant recipients. These sub-grant recipients will conduct multi-year quantitative or qualitative research studies that illuminate key aspects of individual food choice among consumers in lower wealth quintiles in developing countries. We have a preference for studies that will take place in one or more of the 34 countries suffering from the highest burden of stunting in childhood (listed in the 2013 Lancet Maternal and Child Nutrition Series), and we have an interest in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The program is expected to focus on high quality research outputs relevant to practitioners or policymakers. The program includes capacity strengthening for research on food choice in Africa and South Asia, and systematic communication of research findings to enhance research uptake and provide a strong link between research and policy processes.
We are expecting the following outputs to be delivered:
A high-quality portfolio of competitively-commissioned innovative research on the drivers of individual food choice among poor consumers in developing countries
- Publications in international peer-reviewed journals on drivers of food choice
- A strengthened community of practice with a pool of research professionals, especially from African and South Asian countries with experience in research on food choice
- Evidence of uptake of research findings in program and policy settings
In order to achieve those outcomes, the following approaches are envisaged:
A fully inclusive process that solicits sub-grant applications from qualified academic and research institutions, civil society and commercial organizations (including operational development and communications organizations) based in developed and developing countries
- Establishing or creating a community of practice to enable sub-grant recipients to collaborate and share information and approaches
- Systematic communication of research findings to enhance research uptake
- Strong links between research and policy processes
- A light-touch approach to technical assistance for sub-grant recipients