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Fulbright scholar’s study looks at food security on Eleuthera

A Fulbright scholar is attempting to discover the challenges the island of Eleuthera, in particular, and The Bahamas in general, have with food security and its connection to the health of the nation’s population.

Allison Karpyn, who is on a two-year stint on Eleuthera, said on average low income families in The Bahamas survive on about $4,300 per year for food, or about $11 per day.

Karpyn is the associate director of the Center for Education Research and Social Policy (CRESP) and an associate professor of education and behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware.

Her study is examining the linkages between where this country’s food is grown and what is eaten by the communities. She will focus on Eleuthera, while her local colleague at the University of The Bahamas will focus on data in New Providence.

“Specifically we’re talking to a lot of residents about how they feed their family,” Karpyn said. “That number comes from… what it would take to meet your minimum 2,400 calories per day, along with a few other expenses.”

Karpyn told Guardian Business that she is the second Fulbright scholar to conduct research in The Bahamas.

She said she chose Eleuthera because of its strong history of farming, which she lamented has fallen from a few thousand farmers to a few hundred farmers. Despite this finding by Karpyn, she said the island has a momentum she thinks can be fostered. “Either way, I’m here to help,” she said.

She recognized the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) as the nation’s response to its food insecurity concerns, hailing The Bahamas as being “out in front” and remaining aware of the “challenges that climate change and reliance on imports creates”.

When her study is done she said it will be presented to The Bahamas and U.S. governments and possibly, she hopes, be implemented in the next generation of global national food policy.

For now, she is helping the One Eleuthera Foundation figure out Eleuthera’s food woes. Karpyn said one thing she has identified in the three weeks she has been on the island is that its residents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

“There is interesting research about fruits and vegetables people consume,” she said. “Here, there is a high percentage of people who only eat fruits and vegetables once per week.”

She is also concerned that the health sector of The Bahamas has not yet fully come to grips with linking itself to the agricultural sector in order to promote healthier lifestyles.


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