Dietary diversity is an indicator of the access dimensions of household food security as it relates to income, area, and seasonality. Dietary diversity refers to the number of different individual food items (food variety) and food groups (food group variety) consumed over a given reference period (Ruel, 2002:3). This may accurately predict individual nutrient adequacy and thus household food security. Inability to access enough food for a sustainable and healthy life indicates food insecurity. Food accessing refers to obtaining food for all household members at all times through own production, exchange and/or purchase. Food access depends on an adequate, stable, local food supply, and includes the availability and utilization of food (Steyn, Labadarios&Huskissom, 1999: 32). Lack of food resources often leads to food insecurity due to, among other, limited dietary diversity (different foods items or food groups) (Bellamy, 1998:24). Emphasis on dietary diversity can eliminate nutrient deficiency by increasing individual food and food group variety, thereby improving health. The aim of this research is to identify and describe the contribution of food access strategies to dietary diversity of farm worker households by identifying their dietary diversity level and its contribution to household food security. A cross-sectional research design was used to collect data from all the adult women (18-65 years) (N=21) responsible for the food in a complete community of farm worker households on a farm (Oranje farm) in the Free-State province of South Africa. A structured questionnaire was used to gather data on demographics, food access strategies with special reference to food production, purchasing, bartering, gathering and payment in kind, as well as dietary diversity. The two most common food accessing strategies used were purchasing (general dealers) and gathering (wild leaves, hunting, and fishing). Most people depended on own food production (86%) such as the cultivation of vegetables (spinach, green beans, pumpkin, turnip, tomatoes, cabbage) and fruit (apricots, peaches). Food bartering is seldom practiced (19%) due to customs and lack of knowledge. Food received as payment in kind (maize meal) was common (76%). The choice method of food access was buying (76%), gathering (19%) and producing (4%). People seldom ate outside their own home (76%), except children receiving food at school from the school feeding scheme (90%). Dietary diversity was limited for cereals consisting mainly of maize meal porridge, bread, vegetables such as wild leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, fruit (apples), unpasteurised milk, protein (eggs, chicken) and other (tea, sugar, oil, curry powder). The mean for the food variety score of the 109 food items per day varied from 23.0 to 27.9 between five seasons which relates to three to four different food items per day. Food variety score were thus lower in all the seasons when considering nutritious food. The food group diversity score was also calculated over nine nutritious food groups used over seven days. The food group diversity scores was high in almost all the seasons. The mean food group diversity score of the nine food groups varied from 7.9 to 8.8 between five seasons which relates to one and almost two food groups per day. Although most food groups were consumed in seven days, resulting in “high” dietary diversity, the numbers of food items (individual food variety) eaten within the various food groups was low. This study showed that it was possible to predict household food security of household members by simply calculating the food variety score and food group diversity score of a household as an indication of dietary diversity. The result revealed which households was food secure on insecure, and provided an overall picture of the dietary diversity of the whole community. Overall this results indicated that limited food access strategies were utilized or that many of the strategies were not used optimally, resulting in limited dietary diversity, ultimately affecting the household food security status of farm worker households. This information can be used to formulate strategies and develop interventions to increase the number of food access strategies utilized and to food improve utilization thereof in order to improve dietary diversity and household security.
Dissertation (MConsSci (General))--University of Pretoria, 2008.