A literature review of public food distribution in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an extremely poor country, with large numbers of families living below the poverty level and high rates of malnutrition. There have been numerous studies of nutrition at the national, regional, and local levels, and many programs have been designed to alleviate malnutrition. Some of these programs are part of the Public Food Distribution System (PFDS). It is an important element of the food economy of Bangladesh, ostensibly designed to improve access to and consumption of foodgrains by certain target groups. In addition, some components of the system are used to moderate fluctuations in food prices.

Given the large quantities of grains moving through the PFDS, its effectiveness is an important concern. The U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracted with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for a three-year study of the PFDS, which is currently under way. The explicit goals of the study are to produce a flexible model to determine the optimal stock of grains and to provide policymakers with a tool to evaluate stock levels on a real-time basis; to develop a system to intervene in local food markets using prices rather than quantities as the targeting mechanism; and to provide a detailed study of the effects of the various PFDS programs on the consumption and nutrition of the rural poor.

This paper presents the plan of work for achieving the third goal. Chapter 2 describes the various PFDS delivery programs; chapter 3 then reviews a number of past studies of PFDS effectiveness and of nutritional status in Bangladesh. An outline of the plan of work for the IFPRI consumption/nutrition team is presented in Chapter 4. A major component of that plan is a field study to measure the impact of the PFDS. Chapter 5 then provides details on the design of the field study. Some conclusions are presented in Chapter 6.

Alwang, Jeffrey
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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