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Flagship Project 6: Impacting Wellbeing in Rural and Urban Communities

Project Overview​

Key determinants of populations health and resilience include heredity, environment, diet, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors. Within this framework, education and, empowerment are important components that can define theories of change to improve lives and livelihoods, leading to better nutrition, health and economic outcomes. Our flagship project explores the relationships between these factors through assessing needs and piloting innovative intervention models.

We have brought together a multidisciplinary group of social scientists, land economists, basic scientists and a nutrition think tank to work on several interlinking sub-projects. Our work centres around two key research themes, the first on nutrition-specific Education, Food, Nutrition and Empowerment (EFNE) and the second on more general Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (4E). These two themes are linked by two different, innovative intervention methods: Mobile Teaching Kitchens (MTKs), a teaching method pioneered by our partner NNEdPro, and food education-focused Innovation Farms, spearheaded by a team at NIAB.

Central to our flagship project is capacity building. Our research will provide an evidence base from which Indian partners and stakeholders can extend, strengthen or create their own innovative initiatives which work in the settings in which they are applied. Through bringing different research disciplines and partners together to devise and test new interventions in the field, our flagship project will enhance youth skills, women’s entrepreneurship and improve nutritional literacy.

How are we putting our research into practice?

6a: Education, Food, Nutrition and Empowerment (EFNE)

We are working in rural communities in several locations across India. The EFNE theme, led by Professor Nitya Rao from UEA, is using participatory research methods in Maharashtra, Punjab, Orissa and Telangana to understand past and current nutrition and dietary practices in rural communities, across genders and generations. This work will inform community-led education programmes that re-introduce traditional dietary practices, backed up by modern nutrition science, to improve health and nutrition, particularly in women.

6b: Education, Employment, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship (4E)

Our 4E theme, led by Dr Shailaja Fennell from the University of Cambridge, uses a variety of techniques including use of normative data, baseline household surveys and looking at the key links between education to empower communities towards developing skills and livelihoods for employment as well as entrepreneurship. In the context of agriculture and female smallholders this includes decisions on land use, impacting productivity and household income.

6a & 6b: Mobile Teaching Kitchens (MTK) and Innovation Farms

Together with NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, led by Professor Sumantra Ray, we have adapted their MTK intervention for use in a rural setting. We are testing this adapted version at sites including Punjab and Orissa. As we refine this intervention we will roll it out to other locations, using workshops to train Indian stakeholders so that MTKs can become a self-sustaining community-led cornerstone for nutrition education in rural settings.

Innovation Farms, Dr Lydia Smith from NIAB will provide an important platform for uptake of new technologies and educational materials that stem from our research.

Response to COVID-19

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health. Without dedicated action on nutrition, all forms of malnutrition are likely to increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on food environments. Financial hardships, reduced physical activity, and altered purchasing patterns favouring products with longer shelf-life and often poorer nutrition profiles can lead to higher levels of food insecurity, undernutrition, and overweight/obesity.  

We are actively responding to the pandemic.  We are assessing the response of the local, state and central government and even civil society to the availability, accessibility, and affordability of food essentials. It is on record that the COVID-19 pandemic response plan was not the same for all states and districts across India. States may have various responses to ensuring food availability, depending on urban, rural and tribal contexts.

Example areas of investigation include:

  • The disruption of value chains due to staff shortages; especially fairly junior low-paid packing and sorting jobs. Such disruptions may have resulted in waste where produce could not be either picked or packed. In some cases, produce has been landfilled or suffered a much decreased value or shelf-life. 

  • An absence of traders who collect agricultural produce from the farm gate has led to dumping of fruits and vegetables in India. Reduced operational hours of markets has also caused food waste.

  • Assessing the effects of large numbers of agricultural workers returning home to their villages after the current lockdown ends.


Academic papers

Growth and Decomposition of Millets in Odisha: 1960-61 to 2019-20. Jena, D. and Mishra, S. (2022). Agricultural Science Digest. DOI: 10.18805/ag.D-5447

SDG 2: Zero Hunger in “Punjab 2030 – SDG Wise Road Map”. Gupta, Bhawna; Johal, Ramanjit Kaur; Kaur, Keeratpal (2022). SDG Co-ordination Centre-UNDP, Department of Planning, Government of Punjab

Accepted for publication: Agrarian Distress in Punjab, the Granary of India: A Prognosis for Public Policy in an edited volume of case studies. Gill, Suveera & Johal, Ramanjit Kaur (2022). Chandler Institute of Governance, Singapore 

Rural women entrepreneurship: a systematic literature review and beyond, Aggarwal M, Johal RK, World Journal of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, 2021

Three-year review of a capacity building pilot for a sustainable regional network on food, nutrition and health systems education in India. Buckner L, Carter H, Ahankari A, Banerjee R, Bhar S, Bhat S, Bhattacharya Y, Chakraborty D, Douglas P, Fitzpatrick L, Maitra-Nag S, Muhkerjee S, Ray S, Roy A, Saha A, Sayegh M, Rajput-Ray M, Tsimpli I, Ray S. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. 2021.

'Bhavishya Shakti: Empowering the Future': establishing and evaluating a pilot community mobile teaching kitchen as an innovative model, training marginalised women to become nutrition champions and culinary health educators in Kolkata, India. Buckner L, Carter H, Crocombe D, Kargbo S, Korre M, Bhar S, Bhat S, Chakraborty D, Douglas P, Gupta M, Maitra-Nag S, Muhkerjee S, Saha A, Rajput-Ray M, Tsimpli I, Ray S, (2021). BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

Malthus, statistics, and the state of Indian agriculture, Fennell S, The Historical Journal, p159-185, 63 (Special Issue 1, Malthusian Moments), 2020

Knowledge synthesis and translation in global food and nutrition security to evaluate and accelerate priority actions. Johnsen JT, Buckner L, Ray S. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, 2020.

Is global dietary change an effective strategy to curb climate change? Bradfield J, Trigueiro H, Ray S. Nutrition, Prevention & Health, 2020. 

The Evaluation of Mobile Teaching Kitchens as a Nutrition Education Tool to Improve Health Outcomes in Underserved Communities, Buckner L, Bhat S, Bhar S, Ray S, Roy A, Crocombe D, Carter H, Maitra-Nag S, Qamar Z, Douglas P, Rajput-Ray M, Ray S, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 7, 2019

Book chapters

Narayanan R, Rao N. 2020.​​​​ Adult learning for Nutrition Security: Challenging dominant values through participatory action research in Eastern India. In Indigenous Women and Adult Learning.​​ Routledge. Oxford.

Technical reports

Best practices in inclusion: A study on women's participation in the labour market, Sidebottom R, Fennell S, Baskaran G, Bhangaonkar R, 2019

Internship report

Ananya Mohapatra, "Lessons from Millets, Nutrition and Beyond: Peek into Bakeries of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) Data and More". Internship Report under Mentorship of Professor Srijit Mishra, Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS), Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), Hyderabad, November 2021. Available at

Latest news

Short Film about PU's Basic Nutrition Curriculum

24 May 2022

TIGR2ESS at Panjab University: A snapshot

18 May 2022

Aquaponics as an alternative farming method for the Punjab

28 March 2022


UK Scientific and Administrative Co-Leads

Dr Shailaja Fennell

Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge

Professor Sumantra Ray

NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health in Cambridge (c/o The British Dietetic Association) and Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge (c/o Dr S Fennell)


UK Scientific Co-Leads

Professor Nitya Rao

School of International Development, University of East Anglia

Dr Lydia Smith

NIAB Innovation Farm and the Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub  


Co-Investigators from Key Partner Institutions

Dr Lara Allen (Centre for Global Equality, Cambridge, UK)

Professor Ramanjit Kaur Johal (Panjab University, India)

Professor Srijit Mishra (Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies (NCDS), Odisha, India)

Professor Suraj Kumar (Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS), Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Bhubaneswar, India)

Professor K Narayanan (Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, India)

Dr R. Padmaja (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, India)

Dr Rengalaksmi Raj (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, India)


Postdoctoral Research Associates and Research Assistants

Dr Jaswinder Kaur (Panjab University, India)

Dr Rekha Bisht Sirola (IIT, Bombay, India)

Dr Anuprita Shukla (University of East Anglia, UK)

Dr Rekha Bhangaonkar (University of Cambridge, UK)

Dr Rajshree Kanungo (NCDS, Odisha, India)

Dr Shubhashree Shankar (KISS, Odisha, India)

Dr Ravi Nandi (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, India)

Mr Vivek Babu (M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, India)

Mr Vinod Bhalerao, Research Assistant (IIT, Bombay, India)

Ms Kavitha Kasala, Research Support and Scientific Officer (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, India)

Dr Jegan Sekar, Scientist (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, India)



Public Health Resource Network

NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health (c/o British Dietetic Association)

NNEdPro Regional Network in India (c/o The Remedy Clinic Study Group)


Chintan/Lok Chetna Manch

State Health Missions

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)

Cordia Group of Educational Institutes Sanghol, Punjab, India

Kalsubai Millets and Traditional Food Organization; NGO partner in Akole, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India

Inner Wheel International, Kolkata, India 

ICRISAT, Telangana, India

MSSRF, Chennai

Odisha Millet Mission and Odisha State Rural Livelihoods Mission

Mehar Baba Charitable Trust (MBCT), Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab


Key NNEdPro members (Mobile teaching kitchen)

Dr Minha Rajput-Ray

Pauline Douglas RD

*Dr Luke Buckner 

Jørgen Torgerstuen Johnsen

*On leave of absence.

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