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Intra-familial distribution of food in rural Bangladesh
Nazmul Hassan and Kamaluddin Ahmad
Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
In order to study the food and nutrition situation of Bangladesh, a nationwide food consumption survey was carried out in selected rural locations between January 1981 and June 1982. Food consumption surveys provide information on the average food and nutrient intake of a population under study but conceal information on the patterns of food allocation within the family. Efforts were made in the 1981-1982 survey to determine actual food and nutrient intake of the various demographic groups within the family, to study the adequacy or inadequacy of their nutrient intake in relation to recommended daily allowances, and to identify the major nutrient gaps for specific categories of family members. The study also emphasized the intra-familial distribution of food according to income group. The present paper relates the findings of the study.
The survey was conducted in 12 statistically selected rural locations of Bangladesh. These 12 locations, 3 in each administrative division, were selected by a multi-stage sampling technique. Each included 25 randomly chosen households with a total population of 1,663 belonging to different union parishad (local administrative unit) taxation categories.
In rural Bangladesh the population is classified into four groups: A, B. C, and D. The A group are the poorest, most certainly landless, and not required to pay any local tax. The B group are a little better off and pay a token tax. The C group are middle-class and pay an appreciable tax. The D group are the richest and pay the highest tax. Of the total study population, 503 belonged to group A, 392 to B. 315 to C, and 453 to D. The A group population consisted of 117 households; group B. 78; group C, 52; and group D, 50 households. The study population included 466 children, 176 mothers (lactating, pregnant, or both), and 1,021 adolescents and adults of both sexes.
Dietary intakes in the selected households were obtained by trained investigators using the 24-hour food weighing method and a prescribed pre-tested questionnaire.
Standarized measures such as cups and pots were used to estimate individual food intake within the family. The study households were requested to serve the cooked food to all family members using only the standardized measures provided, and the respective dietary investigators observed and recorded the intra-family distribution of food. In cases where a family refused to serve food with the utensils provided by the investigators, utensils from that particular household were calibrated according to standard containers. Quantities of food distributed with those standardized household measures were then converted to the investigators' standard measures for recording.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The results of the intra-family study were tabulated under two headings: food groups and nutrients. The food groups are discussed first, followed by discussion of nutrients. Individual food intake was converted into nutrients using food conversion tables (1).
Table 1 presents the average food intake by food groups according to different ages and sex. The table shows that the average per capita intake of total food for all ages and both sexes was 788 grams per person per day. Average intake was found to be markedly higher for males than for females in all age groups. The highest intake of 1,236 grams was recorded for adult males 20-39 years of age. Among females the maximum intake was found to be 898 grams for lactating mothers. This intake was, however, well below the average intake of boys 13-15 years of age. The disparity in intake between sexes may be attributed to sex discrimination against females in intra-family allocation of food. Studies concerning sex bias in the family allocation of food also end support to this (2, 3).
Cereal constituted the major proportion of the diet for both sexes in all age groups of the population studied. The average intake was 493 grams per day. The amount of cereal varied from 54 to 60 per cent of the total diet for children 1-9 years old and from 61 to 64 per cent for adults 20 years old or older. Though food intake was observed to be higher for males, the proportion of cereal in the total diet was slightly higher for females. It was highest (69 per cent) for mothers who were both pregnant and lactating. The dominance of cereals in the diet of females compared to male diets is noted.
TABLE 1. Food Intake (g/person/day) of Different Age and Sex Groups, by Food Groups
|Children (both sexes)|
|Pregnant and lactating||540||9||7||0||162||11||0||31||11||2||780|
Average intake of roots and tubers was calculated to be 63 grams. Intake varied from 55 to 104 grams among males and females of different ages. The intake was higher for males than for females. The highest intake of 104 grams was recorded for adult males 20-39 years of age. Among females it was found to be highest (95 grams) in women 60-69 years of age. The contribution of roots and tubers to the total diet ranged from 6 to 11 per cent.
The average intake of pulses was calculated to be 9 grams per day. Intra-family distribution shows that pregnant as well as lactating mothers had hardly any share of this food. The contribution of pulses and nuts to the total diet was negligible, ranging from 1 to 2 per cent.
Table 1 reveals that the average intake of vegetables (leafy and non-leafy) was 130 grams per person per day for males and females of all ages. It was about 16 per cent of the total diet. Per capita intake of vegetables was recorded to be highest for adult males 40-49 years old (241 grams per person per day), followed by 206 grams for adult males in the next two decades (50-59, 60-69). The proportion of vegetables in the total diet varied from 12 to 21 per cent. Their contribution was the highest (21 per cent) for boys 10- 12 years old.
The average intake of meat in the intra-family survey was calculated to be 7 grams per person per day. Its consumption was highest (7 grams) by adult males 20-39 years old. Older women (70 years and above) and pregnant as well as lactating women were found to have eaten no meat. Average meat consumption, however, was so low that its share in the total diet was around 1 per cent. Average egg intake was also so insignificant (1.33 grams) that intra-family distribution seemed meaningless. A sharp sex differential was found to exist in fish intake. Females of all age groups had a lower intake than males. Among women fish intake was recorded to be lowest among lactating mothers.
Average intake of milk was 19 grams per person per day. Intake was higher than this average for adult males of older age groups (20 years and above). It was highest for adult males 40-49 years of age, followed by children 1-3 years old (30 grams). Intake of mothers (lactating and simultaneously pregnant and lactating) was lowest (11 grams). The contribution of milk and milk products to the total diet was calculated to be about 2 per cent.
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