An analysis of the food baskets and their implications for household food security, uMsunduzi Local Municipality.
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In South Africa, most, poor households rely on food purchases than production, the regularity of quality food intake relates directly to cost and access. The compromised access to food status exposes most households to a shortage of essential vitamins and minerals in the human body that define hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is a silent killer with a potential to afflict irreversible health effects as well as socioeconomic consequences that can hinder an individual‟s development and welfare. Iron, iodine, vitamin A, and zinc deficiencies are the most widespread hidden hunger outcomes that are common contributors to poor growth, intellectual impairments, perinatal complications and increased risk of morbidity and mortality. In 2003, the food fortification program was introduced in South Africa to assist in alleviating the micronutrient deficiency problem. This study assessed the composition of household food baskets and the implications on food security, with special focus on how food fortification affects a household‟s diet in the uMsunduzi Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. A random sample of 200 households was selected for data collection from an urban and peri-urban residential area. A structured questionnaire administered through face-to-face interviews collected data. Descriptive statistics presented the relationship between household-level characteristics, on one hand, and food fortification awareness and food security, on the other. Demographic results showed that there were 26 percent of unemployed and 37 percent of pension holding household heads where 60 percent have a secondary level of education. It was also observed that households who were unaware and those aware of food fortification had a significant association in food purchasing patterns, household monthly income, household food expenditure, media recognition, garden ownership as well as price, brand, and considerations of child preference when purchasing food. Binomial regression models estimated predictors of food fortification awareness and of household fortified food purchasing. Results showed that age of head of household, employment status, price consideration, food fortification logo identification and household size had a significant effect on household fortified food purchasing. On the other hand, age, employment status, household medical issues, the frequency of shopping, food basket decision-maker and household monthly income significantly affected awareness of food fortification. Price was found to be a leading influencing factor of purchasing decision-making as opposed to nutrition value. However, the modern consumer purchasing decision-making processing is slowly changing as they are beginning to care and are curious about the nutritional value of their foods and contribution it makes to their health and active life. The findings identify some factors that can be used for positively influencing food fortification awareness and household fortified food purchasing. Results also showed that after 14 years of the introduction of food fortification in South Africa, 73% households remain unaware of food fortification and on average consumed less than the recommended daily caloric requirements. Results in the study suggested that although households may be unaware of food fortification, food products chosen to improve the crisis (fortification program) are reaching the consumers and are being purchased, as they are accessible and affordable. The analysis of household food baskets showed that prices of food items influence a large number of consumers and this dictates what is purchased for the household. Households with a low income are more likely to focus on quantity than quality foods meaning that the importance of nutrition lacks behind. Households who are unaware of food fortification tend to make poor food choices and need to be more exposed to nutrition education. The limited awareness of food fortification suggested that it may be an underlying indirect cause of hidden hunger. It was recommended that the ultimate objective of the staple food fortification program is to assist the South African population to receive the necessary quantities of the micronutrients needs via the purchasing and consumption of the chosen food items, this can be achieved through further programs that assure the awareness of the population. It was also recommended that intervention programs be implemented to empower nutrition education and that they target all types of consumers and specific areas that are similar to Sweetwaters and Edendale. Schools, health facilities, and media must be given a greater platform for the output distribution and maintenance of nutritional education with special focus on the benefits of food fortification as it was clear, in the study that such information has not yet transcended ages, educational levels and employment statuses. The cost-effective and efficient way of ensuring that households have access to micronutrients rich diets is the promotion of household gardens, agricultural-based interventions such as biofortification and planting of indigenous plants/crops as they are usually rich in vitamin A, Zinc, Iron and other valuable minerals.