Food insecurity in South Africa has been found to be affecting both the informal and formal settlements both in the rural areas and urban areas (Oxfam, 2014). However, the level of food insecurity in South Africa halved since 1999. Though, it was reported that the level of food insecurity did improve in 2008 and remains at 26% (SAHANES-1, 2013). Hidden hunger is often led by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals where signs of under-nutrition and hunger are less visible (Kennedy et al, 2007).
The aim of this research was to determine the nutrition knowledge, attitudes and behaviour as well as perceptions of hunger and food security of caregivers in a resource limited community in Bronkhorstspruit. A descriptive cross-sectional study in the quantitative research paradigm was done to collect data from caregivers (N=50) who were responsible for preparing and buying food for school aged children, residing in different households in Bronkhorstspruit in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. The caregivers were selected non-randomly. Informed consent was obtained from the caregivers. Caregivers were individually interviewed using structured questionnaires (socio-demographic, Hunger Scale, nutrition knowledge, attitudes and behaviour as well as the 24 hour recall questionnaires respectively).
The majority (68%) of the caregivers had good nutrition knowledge but they did not know how to apply the knowledge in their dietary lifestyle. The socio-economic status and nutrition knowledge and attitudes of the caregivers were found to be possible factors that influenced dietary intakes of the households. Correlations were not assessed. Hunger assessment revealed that 68% of the households consumed on a limited number of foods in the previous month, and of these 36% of the households had a shortage of food because they depended on the few number of foods to feed their children for five days or more in that month. The mean Household Food Variety Score (FVS) was 4.38 (± 1.0) and the Household Dietary Diversity Score (DDS) was 4.28 (±1.0). The results illustrated that the food variety in this research demonstrated an average of eight food items were consumed in the households during the 24hr period of the maximum of 24 food items, identified by the 24 hour recalls.
There seems to be a need for a nutrition intervention programme that will focus on nutrition education of caregivers on how they can improve their dietary intake even under constrained circumstances. This study showed that there is a limited food access by the households due to low incomes. Communities should participate more in government initiated projects in the community; this would help in improving incomes of the caregivers.