Tools for Food Security and Nutrition Analysis

Household Economy Approach and Cost of the Diet

CoD Software

Using the data collected, the Cost of the Diet software applies linear programming routines to generate hypothetical diets using a combination of foods that will enable a family to meet their energy and nutrient requirements as recommended by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation at the lowest possible cost. As the software can identify a diet that is not realistic in terms of the frequency with which foods are eaten, for example by specifying that a particular food is eaten three times a day every day, the frequency with which each food is consumed can be adjusted to reflect typical dietary patterns.

The software can estimate the cost of four hypothetical diets:

1. A diet that meets the specified needs for energy only (energy only diet)
2. A diet that meets the specified needs for energy, fat and protein only (macronutrient diet)
3. A diet that meets the specified needs for all nutrients at minimum cost nutritious diet (nutritious diet)
4. A diet that meets the specified needs for all nutrients at lowest cost using a locally nutritious diet (food habits, nutritious diet)

The software produces the following output for each of the four diets:

- The daily cost of the diet by season for an individual or household;
- The annual cost of the diet for an individual or household;
- The average monthly cost of the diet for an individual or household;
- The average daily cost of the diet for an individual or household;
- The total daily weight (g) of each food selected by the software;
- The edible daily weight (g) of each food selected by the software;
- The cost of the edible daily weight of each food selected by the software;
- The daily number of servings of the foods selected by the software;
- The daily quantity of each nutrient provided by the edible portion of foods selected by the software;
- The percentage (%) of each nutrient target provided a day by the edible portion of foods selected by the software;
- The total weekly weight (g) of each food selected by the software;
- The edible weekly weight (g) of each food selected by the software;
- The cost of the edible weekly amount of each food selected by the software;
- The weekly number of servings of the foods selected by the software;
- The weekly quantity of each nutrient provided by the edible portion of foods selected by the software;
- The percentage (%) of each nutrient target provided a week by the edible portion of foods selected by the software;
- The percentage of nutrient specifications met by the diets, by season for an individual or household;
- The annual diet summary for an individual or household;
- The affordability of the diets by wealth group for an individual or household, if data from an HEA or other source of income are available.

The software produces the following output for the food habits diet only:

- The cost of the food groups by week for an individual and the total household
- Seasonal cost fluctuations of the food habits diet for an individual or household

The software can therefore:

- Estimate the minimum cost of a locally specified diet for households of multiple individuals;
- Take into account seasonal variation in prices when costing the diet;
- Identify the least expensive sources of energy and all nutrients;
- Identify nutrients for which it may be hard to meet requirements;
- Identify the foods that contribute the most to the cost of the diet;
- Estimate the cost of the diet for typical families of between 5 and 10 members that are aligned with income data generated during a Household Economy Analysis, and can be used to estimate the affordability of the diet;
- Estimate the impact on the diet or its cost of potential interventions that might help households meet their needs for energy and nutrients

The most innovative aspect of the Cost of the Diet software is the ability to change many of the underlying parameters to enable a user to generate 'What if?' models to estimate the following:

- The potential effect of new or existing nutrition interventions on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet for specific individuals or the household as a whole;
- The potential effect of new or existing food security interventions on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet for specific individuals or the household as a whole;
- The potential effect of new or existing social protection interventions on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet for specific individuals or the household as a whole;
- The potential effect of changing the nutrient specifications for specific individuals or households on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet;
- The potential effect of a sudden shock on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet;
- The potential effect of current infant and young child feeding practices on the cost, quality, composition and affordability of a nutritious diet.