Food security and coping strategies of a rural community within the Valley of a Thousand Hills
Food security is a global concern and the insecurity thereof is prevalent in South Africa even though the country is deemed to be secure in terms of food availability. The study was conducted to determine the socio-economic, health and nutrition and food security status of the community living in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu Natal, in addition to analysing their coping strategies. Two hundred and fifty seven respondents were required to participate in this study. Data were collected by interviewing the respondents using pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaires; socio demographic questionnaires, dietary intake questionnaires- namely 24 hour recall and Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) and the coping strategy questionnaires were used. Lastly anthropometric measurements were taken to determine BMI. A prevalence of extreme poverty exists as a magnitude of the high unemployment rate, out of which 75.8% had been unemployed for more than 3 years. The household monthly income was less than R500 per month for 37.3% of the respondents. The mean Food Variety Scores (FVS) (±SD) for all foods consumed from the food groups during seven days was 22.45 (±10.32), indicating a low food variety score. In this study the food group diversity is summarized as the majority of the respondents (91.1%, n=226) being classified with a good dietary diversity score using 6-9 food groups. The mean of the three 24-Hour recall nutrient analysis indicated a deficient intake by both men and women in all of the nutrients (100% of the men and women could not meet the DRI’s for energy and calcium) except for the mean (±SD) carbohydrate intake by men aged 19-50 (214.71 ± 80.22). The main source of food intake was from the carbohydrate food group with an insufficient intake of animal products, dairy products and fruits and vegetables respectively; contributing to the macro and micro nutrient inadequacies. Ninety six percent of this community experienced some level of food insecurity with the worst Coping Strategy Index food insecurity score being 117 out of a possible 175. Four percent of this community was classified as being food secure. Overweight and obesity were the most exceptional anthropometric features by the women respondents with 26.5% (n=66) being overweight and 57% (n=142) obese. The men’s anthropometric features were predominantly normal weight. This study has established poverty and unemployment as being the principal contributors for the food insecurity experienced by the populace and poor dietary intakes. The low food variety diet consumed by the respondents resulted in the DRI’s not achieved for most nutrients. The majority of the respondents only consumed two meals a day, as a coping strategy to reduce/prevent temporary food insecurity. Intervention strategies are needed to improve the food security status and dietary intake of the community members to overcome the crisis of malnutrition.