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E4 DTP - The right to food and nutrition: A case-study of legal, political and cultural practices impacting mid-day school meals in India

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 09, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


This project will analyse policies, practices and end-user perceptions of the mid-day school meal scheme in India through a lens of the right to food and nutrition.

Project background

Undernutrition affects around 1 in 3 children in India, leading to growth failure, cognitive impairment and reduced resistance to infection. The prevalence is strongly associated with poverty and low social status. Hinduism promotes vegetarianism among higher castes, with consumption of animal-source foods among other groups associated with uncleanliness. However, inclusion of small amounts of animal-source foods in the diet can increase the intake of key nutrients such as high quality protein, iron, zinc and essential fatty acids.

The Government of India requires each state to provide nutritious mid-day meals in schools, but in some areas the inclusion of nutritious foods such as eggs, meat and vegetables is limited for religious, social, economic and other reasons. As a result the quality of the meals and hence consumption can be low, even in low income communities, thereby exacerbating rather than alleviating child undernutrition.

Research questions

How do national nutrition policies in India deviate from evidence of health effects of animal-source foods in children?
Why are nutritious foods such as eggs and vegetables excluded from the mid-day school meal in some areas?
What are the influences on design, delivery and acceptability of the mid-day meal scheme in low income communities?


Year 1: (in UK)
Months 1-6: literature review on the right to nutritious foods and their role in child health
Months 7-12: qualitative research training; analysis of government policies on child undernutrition and feeding schemes

Year 2: (in India)
Months 13-24: Focus group discussions and key informant interviews on composition of the mid-day meal scheme in low income communities; preparation of manuscripts on literature review and policy analysis

Year 3: (in UK)
Months 25-27: Qualitative data analysis using nVivo software
Months 28-33: Preparation of manuscripts on influences on design and delivery of mid-day meals and on community perceptions of meal quality and composition
Months 34-36: Thesis preparation and submission


A comprehensive training programme comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills and on ethics assessment will be provided. Systematic literature review training will be provided for literature review on the role of eggs, meat and vegetables in child health in low and middle income countries will be provided through the supervisors and their departmental research groups. Mixed methods research training especially on qualitative data collection and analysis. The student will be supported during fieldwork in India by Indian partners and supervisor contacts; links will be established with a local Indian University Dept of Nutrition, and with the Public Health Foundation of India (through existing supervisor relationships) and the National Institute of Nutrition Hyderabad. The student will have the opportunity to present their research at national and international conferences and will be supported in writing first author publications during the PhD. S/he will be more widely supported through networks within and beyond the University of Edinburgh, such as the postgrad cohort at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security and the University’s Centre for South Asian Studies.

Funding Notes

The ideal student will have a first degree in nutrition and medical science, with a second degree in social or political science. Experience of community work in India is desirable. The ability to spend year 2 undertaking qualitative research in India is essential.

Application process - View Website

Apply by Thu Jan 09 2020 at 12:00


Shields, K. ‘Methodological Problems of Monitoring the Right to Food’ (20 pages) in International Economic Law and Human Rights Research Methodology Handbook, McInerney Lankford, S., Bard- Anders A. and Hans-Otto S. (eds.), Edgar Elgar publications, 2017.
Vir S et al, National Policies and Strategic Plans to Tackle Undernutrition in India: a review. POSHAN report no 2, New Delhi, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2014.
Dragsdahl RC. The practice of Indian Vegetarianism in a world of limited resources: the case of Bengaluru. In Food practices in the city: Practices and Patterns in Urban Asia and the Pacific. London and New York, Routledge, 2016.
Singh RK, Patna S. The extent of nutritional anaemia among pre-school children in EAG states., India: a challenge to policy makers. Anaemia article ID 868752, 2014.

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