Third ATNI COVID-19 report highlights corporate responses to the pandemic in India, Mexico and Nigeria. Research for this report is based upon the ATNI Framework ,as published in the first report, and consisted of desk research supplemented by a series of in-country semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders ranging from government officials to nutrition professionals working for NGOs and/or UN agencies to industry experts. These provided invaluable on-the-ground context. The research focused not only on mapping the Covid-19 nutrition nexus in the local contexts, but also specifically looked at publicly disclosed information by the largest food and beverage manufacturers in each country.
The report found that the most widely reported on areas of corporate action are employee wellbeing and donations. Companies in India, Mexico, and Nigeria alike have worked to ensure the safety of their workforce, mostly through measures adopted to guarantee hygiene in the workplace or through financial support, and have made food as well as in-kind donations to support vulnerable populations. Industry actions in these areas could be enhanced by highlighting the importance of good nutrition as supporting employee health, and by transparently disclosing the healthiness of products donated. In line with findings from previous research, there is little evidence of a strategic approach in their responses to the pandemic.
Research for this report found that food security and nutrition indices in the three countries are deteriorating, with especially worrying consequences for maternal and child health. In all countries, a shift towards foods with lower nutritional value and longer shelf-life was recognised. Differences between in-country responses are attributed to different socio-economic contexts, to the magnitude of COVID-19 impacts, and to underlying nutrition challenges. Below are key findings from each of the countries that were reported on:
- With a dedicated government department, the food industry is pivoting towards the production of Ayurvedic products, promoted as boosting immunity;
- The government’s economic relief package included a significant food component;
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ensured food fortification continued undisrupted, and producers of pre-mixes absorbed higher production costs.
- Many in the industry came together to support small retailers, but there has also been pushback by some companies against the introduction of the new, striking front-of-pack labeling scheme that has been strongly supported by public health advocates;
- Through partnerships with local and national NGOs and UN agencies, several nutrition campaigns and food programs have been implemented by the government.
- The food industry took a leading role in a public-private partnership to distribute food and other essential goods, organized by the government, which has faced criticism for the slow pace of distribution;
- At the early stages of the pandemic, the government produced The Nigeria Food and Nutrition Response Plan for the Covid-19 Pandemic, but no further evidence of implementation or execution phase of the plan was found.