Skip navigation

Cost of the Diet: a method and software to calculate the lowest cost of meeting recommended intakes of energy and nutrients from local foods

Cost of the Diet: a method and software to calculate the lowest cost of meeting recommended intakes of energy and nutrients from local foods

Deptford, Amy, Allieri, Tommy, Childs, Rachel, Damu, Claudia, Ferguson, Elaine, Hilton, Jennie, Parham, Paul, Perry, Abigail, Rees, Alex, Seddon, James and Hall, Andrew (2017) Cost of the Diet: a method and software to calculate the lowest cost of meeting recommended intakes of energy and nutrients from local foods. BMC Nutrition, 3 (1):26. ISSN 2055-0928 (Online) (doi:10.1186/s40795-017-0136-4)

[img]
Preview
PDF (Publisher's PDF - Open Access)
16880 HALL_Cost_of_the_Diet_2017.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract

Background
When food is available, the main obstacle to access is usually economic: people may not be able to afford a nutritious diet, even if they know what foods to eat. The Cost of the Diet method and software was developed to apply linear programming to better understand the extent to which poverty may affect people’s ability to meet their nutritional specifications. This paper describes the principles of the method; the mathematics underlying the linear programming; the parameters and assumptions on which the calculations are based; and then illustrates the output of the software using examples taken from assessments.

Results
The software contains five databases: the energy and nutrient content of foods; the energy and nutrient specifications of individuals; predefined groups of individuals in typical households; the portion sizes of foods; and currency conversion factors. Data are collected during a market survey to calculate the average cost of foods per 100 g while focus group discussions are used to assess local dietary habits and preferences. These data are presented to a linear programming solver within the software which selects the least expensive combination of local foods for four standard diets that meet specifications for: energy only; energy and macronutrients; energy, macronutrients and micronutrients; and energy, macronutrients and micronutrients but with constraints on the amounts per meal that are consistent with typical dietary habits. Most parameters in the software can be modified by users to examine the potential impact of a wide range of theoretical interventions. The output summarises for each diet the costs, quantity and proportion of energy and nutrient specifications provided by all the foods selected for a given individual or household by day, week, season and year. When the cost is expressed as a percentage of income, the affordability of the diet can be estimated.

Conclusions
The Cost of the Diet method and software could be used to inform programme design and behaviour change communication in the fields of nutrition, food security, livelihoods and social protection as well as to influence policies and advocacy debates on the financial cost of meeting energy and nutrient specifications.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s). 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Computer software – Linear programming – Food – Cost of the diet – Affordability
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Food Systems Research Group
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Livelihoods & Institutions Department
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2017 10:13
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: GREAT c
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/16880

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics