Fighting stunting and obesity with food

Poor people also need the right kind of food to flourish.
Poor people also need the right kind of food to flourish.

Meals on Wheels Limpopo area director, Mpho Rantsoabe, says the organisation combats stunting and obesity in communities because the meals they serve are well-balanced.

Fighting for health

According to Grow Great, a campaign working on raising awareness about stunting, one in four South African children under the age of five are stunted. Meals on Wheels says stunted children, on average, perform worse in school than their non-stunted counterparts; are more likely to be unemployed as adults; are at higher risk of getting diseases like diabetes and hypertension; and are vulnerable to being trapped in inter-generational cycles of poverty. 

“By serving a balanced meal, we’re combating stunting and obesity, which are caused by not eating the right food or lack of it,” says Rantsoabe.

Obesity [can be] caused by eating [junk food]. What we do is serve a balanced meal. [By doing so], we are fighting obesity and combating stunted growth, which is caused by a lack of essential nutrients in the body.

We train our project leaders and volunteers so they can serve a balanced meal and not just serve food for the sake of serving food.”

Beyond the plate 

Rantsoabe says they also run developmental skills projects such as arts and crafts and agricultural projects to address food security.

“In Thohoyandou, we [provide] the same people we are feeding with agricultural skills. They also fundraise for the project [so they are] able to look after themselves. We have a poultry and vegetable project.In all our centres we encourage them to be engaged in developmental skills.

Due to lack of land, not all our centres have an agricultural project but there are those who do recycling, knitting, sewing, and physical activities, especially [for] the elderly. It differs from centre to centre, depending on the resources available,” he says.

Making a difference 

Pensioner, Nyawasedza Magadze (79) from Thohoyandou says the project assisted her to increase her activity levels and stay away from alcohol. 

“The centre is helpful because they feed us with nutritious [food] every day. We do farming, sewing and a lot of activities so that we can stay alive,” says Magadze. “I used to drink a lot of traditional beer but now I have reduced it because I got many things to do. I even play soccer.” 

Rantsoabe says the centre only caters to impoverished people who are unemployed, living with disabilities, and pensioners. 

“The need out there is far greater than we can cater for. In the future we would like to build more facilities, but at the moment we are limited by funds. If we are able to raise more funds we would be able to expand in the province.”

Most of the centres operate Monday to Friday and some offer two meals a day while others offer meals three times a week due to lack of resources. 

Meals on Wheels was founded by the late Dr Denis Baird in 1964, serving 16 meals with one vehicle to the community of Duncanville in East London. Today, there are over three hundred branches in the country, with nine in Limpopo.

– Health-e News 

Image credit: iStock

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