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Healthy diet unaffordable for most South Africans

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The food system impacts on the ability of consumers to choose healthy diets. Despite marginalised consumers (LSM 1-4) spending up to 35% of their budget on food, a healthy diet remains unaffordable for these consumers.
This has prompted researchers at the Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), to investigate affordable and accessible food items to include in food baskets that are culturally acceptable to all.
Together with a team of researchers from four other universities and those from the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, CoE-FS project leader, Professor Hettie Schönfeldt is assessing available data to identify healthy and popular foods, as well as recommended serving sizes for amounts of energy and key nutrients necessary to meet the body’s nutritional needs and prevent disease. This data will then be used as background information to compile a list of foods to include in the “National Nutritious Food Baskets”.
National Nutritious Food Baskets will consider the quantity and cost of foods that represent a nutritious diet for individuals in various age, gender, socio-economic and cultural sub-groups. The study will support an enabling environment, cultivate a healthy food system and better governance by analysing the economic impacts of attaining a healthy diet for South Africans.
“The challenge is to improve nutrition and food system governance to ensure more nutrition and health-enhancing systems, and to achieve political and policy coherence and coordination across all sectors,” says Professor Schönfeldt.
Added to this, it is important to consider how culture influences the choices people make about food. Thus, the National Nutritious Food Basket project will consider this factor in order to encourage healthier versions of popular foods.
Findings from this study can also be used by stakeholders at various levels of government to monitor the cost and affordability of healthy eating, and thus lend support to national government financing programmes such as social grants, which provide access to food for the poor and marginalised.