Studying Malnutrition through Food Journals

A lot of my time studying child malnutrition in rural Rajasthan has been spent figuring out what children are actually eating and in what quantities. One of the ways that I have been tracking this is by asking families to fill out “food journals” documenting all of their children’s meals for a period of four days. I also spend time in homes observing (and participating in) meals. The following post is a combination of these two tactics; a sort of “food journal” through my eyes. I have documented a day in the life of one of our GSK students, Bharti, in meals. Bharti is a bright, charismatic young 8-year-old girl who lives with her mother, father, and two sisters in a small village about 15 kilometers away from Sawai Madhopur. Her family graciously allowed me to spend some time around their home learning about their lives and meals.


7 AM: Bharti begins her day by having chai, made by an older family member (sister, father or mother). This particular morning, her father makes the chai. Much to Bharti and her mother’s chagrin, the chai is not sweet enough for their liking.  They inform him that he should add more sugar next time.


Bharti’s older sisters, Pramila (18) and Priyanka (12), begin to prepare food for the morning around 7. They make pua (a ball of sweet fried dough) and chole (chickpea masala). By 8 AM, when Bharti heads to school, the food is not ready, so she skips breakfast.




11:30 AM: School lunch begins. Bharti’s sister and I bring her a tiffin full of the food that was consumed in the morning by the rest of the family, in addition to some grapes.  She sits and eats it alongside her classmates on the floor of their classroom. They chatter and share each their lunches with one another.


After finishing their food, Bharti and her friends head outside to meet the ice cream man who comes to the school and sells ice cream outside the school gate. In the hot season, students purchase this ice cream for 5-10 rupees every day during lunch period. Parents generally send their children to school with some money to buy biscuits or ice cream.


4 PM: Once school is over, Bharti and her friends play for a little while on the school grounds. Around 4, they amble home to their village in a large group, spread across the dirt road. The walk takes about twenty minutes. At home, Bharti’s father prepares some chai for her and her mother. This time, the chai is just sweet enough.




8 PM: After about an hour of food preparation by her sisters and father, Bharti eats dinner sitting in the cool air on the roof of her house. She and her mother sit together first and the rest of the family eats once all of the cooking is finished. This particular night, the food is roti with ghee and bhindi ki sabzi (okra). She finishes her vegetables and 2 rotis, then declares herself full, washing her hands over her plate.



Annika feels that India is a country of deep intensity and rich potential which has a great deal to contribute to a globalized world. She is excited to spend an extended period of time living and working with an impactful grassroots organization in India. She values the mentorship of others and the experience of becoming invested in a community. She hopes to contribute something that the community she will be working alongside finds worthwhile and valuable. She hopes to be able to communicate with the community fully on their own terms with fluency in Hindi. Her research with refugees in both Jordan and the United States has given her valuable experience in building meaningful relationships with people from different cultures, an experience she feels would help her in this fellowship.

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