The right to food and nutrition is central to a dignified life, but many people in India are deprived of this crucial human right, in spite of policies like the Public Distribution System and Midday Meal Scheme.

Around 25% of the world’s hungry people, and 30% of the world’s wasted children live in India. And this is in light of the fact that estimates suggest up to 40% of food produced in India goes to waste. Compounding the existing inefficiencies in India’s food system with the recent COVID-19 pandemic yields prospects for a worrying future for India.

There are several important questions that need to be raised to begin to understand how India has come to its current position and to also shape the future trajectory of food and nutrition policy in India.  For example, what are the systemic flaws in policies like the Public Distribution System and Midday Meal Scheme? Given the importance of nutrition for childhood development and India’s large young demographic, how can existing policies be improved and new policies be designed and implemented to ensure India’s citizens have access to proper nutrition? How can India make greater progress in reducing the environmental impact of its food system?

The aim of this reading group is to initiate, and build, a multi-disciplinary intellectual community on food and nutrition in India at the University of Oxford. We hope to bring together scholars across a range of disciplines – physical sciences, social sciences, humanities and the medical sciences. By doing so, we aim to contribute to the University’s priority areas of sustainability and food systems research, particularly by focusing on a country of global significance where Oxford’s diverse expertise has yet to be coordinated. This reading group will also contribute towards encouraging focus on theory and literature emerging from developing countries, and towards deepening networks between various departments and research centres in Oxford.


  • This term, the reading group will be held on November 11 (Week 5) and November 25 (Week 7) from 4-5 pm.
  • Members, by rotation, will select one reading per meeting, to be shared atleast one week in advance. Readings in consecutive meetings will be from different disciplines to encourage discussion across a breadth of ideas and methods.
  • The meeting will be a discussion of the reading, led by the person who suggested it (up to 15 min), followed by a group discussion for 45 minutes. Each session will be 1 hour long.

To register for the reading group, please write to us at


Session I: November 11, 2020

Dr Anant Jani, Oxford Martin Fellow and OICSD Research Associate, led the first session on malnutrition and the public distribution system of India.

Main text:

 Malnutrition and poverty in India: does the use of public distribution system matter?

Optional reads:

Subnational mapping of under-5 and neonatal mortality trends in India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 2000-17

Determinants of motor, language, cognitive, and global developmental delay in children with complicated severe acute malnutrition at the time of discharge: An observational study from Central India


Session II: November 25, 2020

The second session of the Food and Nutrition reading group was led by Barbara Harriss-White, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, University of Oxford.

Main text:

Transcript of a talk given by Prof Harriss-White on food systems in India at IIM Bangalore

Optional readings:

Garcia, Rolando. 1985. Food Systems and Society: A Conceptual and Methodological Challenge. UNRISD, Geneva.


Session III: January 20, 2021

Dr Komal Bhatia, Research Fellow in Adolescent HealthUCL Institute for Global Health, lead the on improving infant and young child feeding in India.

Nguyen PH, Avula R, Headey D, Tran LM, Ruel MT, Menon P. Progress and inequalities in infant and young child feeding practices in India between 2006 and 2016. Matern Child Nutr. 2018 Nov;14 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):e12663. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12663.

Avula R, Oddo VM, Kadiyala S, Menon P. Scaling-up interventions to improve infant and young child feeding in India: What will it take? Matern Child Nutr. 2017 Oct;13 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):e12414. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12414.