Exploring the challenges income-earning households experience regarding household food security in the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme
Several factors have a contribution towards household food security status. Regular income is usually used as the determinant of household food security, however the argument brought forth through the current study is that regular income does not directly translate nor guarantee household food security. Food insecurity amongst poor/impoverished households is widely researched, whilst there is little information available about the consumption patterns and the challenges of regular income earners in South Africa. The study investigated food security statuses, consumption challenges, food choices and current coping strategies experienced by income-earning households in the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme (VIS) community in the Northern Cape Province. A convergent mixed methods design was employed in two phases to collect data from income-earning households in this community. The quantitative phase comprised interviewer-administered questionnaires on food utilisation (N=87), while the qualitative phase included face-to-face interviews with a semi-structured questionnaire (N=46) to determine daily problems participants experience with regard to food consumption, individual food needs and challenges with food choices which affect their household. The quantitative phase included 63 males (72.4%) and 24 females (27.6%), who presented 41.4% food secure, 13.8% food insecure, and 44.8% households at risk of becoming food insecure. Several income-earning households in the Vaalharts community struggled to maintain household food security. Findings reflected that food insecurity was presented in low-, middle- and high-income households, and was common amongst households that struggled to meet their food needs from a single income contributor. The general food consumption patterns in the VIS showed maize meal as a staple food item. Whole chicken pieces and fruit were commonly consumed on a daily basis which reflects a positive consumption pattern as these foods are known to be nutritious. Food-secure households with a higher income had an advantage as they were able to spend more money on a variety of food items. Food insecure and at risk households resorted to more affordable and satisfying food options such as sweets/energy-dense foods, on a daily basis. Households often adopted coping strategies that included borrowing money (r=0.396; p<0.05), eating non-preferred foods (r=0.378; p=0.002) and reducing portion size (r=0.523; p=0.001) to feed the family. In the qualitative phase, participants expressed difficulty when making food purchasing and consumption choices due to a lack of knowledge reading food labels and choosing healthy foods and managing their finances, which prevented them from purchasing affordable, nutritious foods. Low dietary diversity was noted and participants indicated a need for assistance through practical help and knowledge of healthy and quality choices when buying food. Leaflets and posters containing information about vegetable gardens, food consumption patterns, budgeting skills and food labeling material should be provided to the VIS workplace. Sustainable community farming can positively impact access to fresh foods, thus supporting household food security in this community. Although findings from the study cannot be generalised, the needs identified may be used as a starting point to support household food security.
- Health Sciences