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Food security survey needs serious attention, says governance reformer

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A recent food security and livelihood survey launched by CARICOM has underscored the intense level of attention needed to handle the difficulty of food security within the country, based on a governance reformer yesterday.

Hubert Edwards, head of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) economic development committee, described the difficulty as a national security matter.

“The recent Caribbean Food Security and Livelihood Survey published by CARICOM provides very useful insights for The Bahamas that ought to be treated as essential markers and actively examined by policymakers in a more robust manner,” he said.

“The survey is indicative of the intense level of attention that is required on the difficulty of food security within the country and puts on the radar matters to be considered from a policy perspective because it pertains to vulnerable segments of the population. Food security is a national security matter and one that could be a bit more complex than simply having food to eat. The outputs from the survey suggest that the individuals sampled are displaying the very pronounced characteristics of being food insecure.”

A recent United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) survey revealed that many Bahamians have been forced to eat less or skip meals this yr as a consequence of the impact of world inflation in The Bahamas.

A complete of 734 Bahamians were surveyed in February and August, and it found that 204 people indicated they were nervous they might not have enough food to eat, 140 said they went a day without eating and 166 people said there have been times previously 30 days after they were hungry but didn’t eat. The survey also noted that 206 people indicated that that they had to skip a meal and 241 people said they ate lower than they thought they need to.

Edwards said: “Food security requires, amongst other elements, for there to be food availability – having sufficient quantity of appropriate food available; accessibility, which incorporates purchasing power; utilization, which incorporates adequate nutritious dietary intake. It is evident from the survey that these three essential elements are being negatively impacted.

“Along with individuals going without food, the findings showed that those that responded were eating a narrow range of food, unable to eat healthy and nutritious food, and, while there can also be hostile implications here, eating lower than desired.”

He said that coupled with the reported coping strategies – reducing expenditure on non-food items equivalent to health and education and using savings to fulfill food needs – these matters bring to the fore essential social, economic, and human capability issues that ought to attract official attention.

“The pandemic has exposed weaknesses within the country’s food security infrastructure and the survey provides anecdotal evidence that matters equivalent to “feeding self”, “expanding local agricultural output”, “employing technology to secure inexpensive output” continues to be urgent policy issues. There are elements of the data, because it currently stands, where great care ought to be applied in its interpretation. Despite this, it becomes readily obvious that the sample of individuals responding to the survey are more likely to fall in vulnerable segments or lower social-economic groupings.

“Set against the backdrop of the pandemic one would anticipate that the outcomes as reported could be reflected in these groupings. This doesn’t diminish the potency of the findings. A careful assessment across all reported outputs displays a level of consistency in either deteriorating income, negative effects on food consumption, or need for noticeable adjustments to buying patterns,” said Edwards.

He continued:, “When the dominant age demographic of above 40 is taken into account, and we take into consideration their major worries – inability to cover essential needs; fear of illness; unemployment and having to resort to savings – it is evident that at some level the country should take a careful look to make sure we fully understand the problems at play and are responding accordingly. These matters mustn’t be ignored.

“Critically, the life-style adjustments noted hold negative implications for health and quality of life and by extension for national productivity and increased government social support. Subsequently within the face of high and increasing levels of inflation, the inquiries to be asked are: how representative this survey is of the complete population? What initiatives and programs are in place, or are adjustments needed to handle the indicative issues? As well as, what work must be done to make sure that the potential negative effects suggested are efficiently addressed in the perfect interest of the country?”

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