The worsening hunger problem of India’s poor

Contact Counsellor

The worsening hunger problem of India’s poor

  • In October 2020, the first Hunger Watch survey (HW-I) was conducted to document the economic distress and hunger caused by the lockdowns and catalyse public action for relief.
  • The second round of the Hunger Watch survey (HW-II) was conducted in December 2021-January 2022.

Hunger Watch survey

  • The Right to Food campaign in partnership with several civil society organisations initiated “Hunger Watch”, a rapid survey across 11 states.
  • Objective: to assess the situation of hunger among vulnerable groups, as well as to take immediate local action to support those in extreme need.
  • It focussed on the conditions among marginalised communities such as Dalit/Adivasi households, daily-wage workers, households with single women, aged or disabled and so on.
  • 41% of sample reported having a monthly income of less than Rs 3,000 pre-lockdown compared to only 2.4% more than Rs 15,000.
  • One-third of them were daily wage workers.

HW- I:

  • 48% said that they had slept without eating at least once and 46% said they had had to skip meals.

Key findings of second survey (HW-II):

  • 79% of the overall sample reported experiencing at least one of the eight conditions of food insecurity from Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Global Food Insecurity Experience Scale (GFIES) in the month preceding the survey.
  • Conditions vary from worrying about not having enough food, to not being able to eat a diet of sufficient quality or quantity, to running out of food and having to go without eating a whole day.
  • One fourth of the sample reported “severe” food insecurity i.e. seven or eight of the conditions.
  • Urban areas - 87% reported any food insecurity, and 28% reported severe food insecurity.
  • Rural areas - the numbers were 76% and 24% respectively.
  • ~ 33% respondents said that they or someone in their household had slept hungry in the month preceding the survey and 36% said they had had to skip meals.
  • Only one in three households said that their consumption of cereals was sufficient for their needs.
  • Two-thirds of households could not afford cooking gas in the month before the survey. This was higher in rural areas than urban.

Situation may worsen

  • People expect the situation to deteriorate further.
  • 40% respondents said that the nutritional quality of their food had worsened since the pre-pandemic period.
  • A similar proportion - quantity of food they eat also declined.
  • These numbers are similar to those from HW-I — 59% of urban households reported a deterioration in the quality of their diets compared to before the pandemic, compared to 35% of rural households, though this could be the result of a higher baseline in urban areas.
  • The situation may worsen in the coming months.
  • Only one in six respondents said they thought their food situation would improve in the next three months.


  • There is an urgent need to acknowledge the problem of hunger and take immediate action, including allocating sufficient resources to address the issue.