Little known about SA diets: Study

By Drum Digital
05 April 2013

Researchers need to probe what South Africans are eating and where they are getting their food from, according to the results of a study released on Friday.

"The major finding of this scoping study is that we do not know what poor people are eating and where they are sourcing their food," said SA Water Research Commission (WRC) manager Gerhard Backeberg.

"The problem is therefore that informed advice and intervention on a balanced diet with a variety or diversity of foods cannot be undertaken."

Backeberg said it was essential that poor people gain secure access to available nutrition resources and were equipped with food production skills.

The study was titled "Water use and nutrient content of crop and animal food products for improved household security: A scoping study".

It was a joint effort by the departments of human nutrition and plant production and soil science at the University of Pretoria, the nutritional intervention research unit at the Medical Research Council, and the Human Sciences Research Council.

Although not conclusive, it found that most poor people bought their food rather than growing it and that natural resources such as soil and water were under-utilised.

Food intake was based mainly on cost and availability.

As an example, many children in inland villages of the Eastern Cape only consumed meat once a month on the day monthly pensions were paid out.

In Limpopo, there seemed to be a higher intake of green, leafy vegetables than in other provinces.

Variety was generally less and food cost prices higher in rural areas.

The preliminary trend was that poor households in rural areas had a largely cereal-based diet with low intakes of fruit, vegetables and animal products.

"Consumption of non-home prepared foods seems to be on the rise in line with international trends," the report stated. "Away-from-home consumptions include school tuck shops, formal or informal street vendors and fast food establishments as well as food eaten at community gatherings, for example at funerals." The study took a multi-disciplinary approach and included factors such as social anthropology and agronomy perspectives.

It found that national food and nutrition studies were rare, did not distinguish between rural and urban poor, and focused largely on infants and children.

: -by Sapa

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