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Survey outlines food insecurity on Eleuthera

A small sampling of churchgoers on Eleuthera shows that approximately 66 percent of the community sampled is food insecure.

Dr. Allison Karpyn, a Fulbright scholar on a two-year stint on Eleuthera to study the island’s food security, presented some of her initial findings at the University of The Bahamas on Friday. Karpyn’s presentation to a packed house was entitled: ‘Rice, cream, grits and tomato paste: A snapshot of Bahamian food security’.

Karpyn explained that those considered food insecure experience hunger. She said only 33 percent of those sampled seemed to be “food secure”.

Her numbers also showed what percentages are severe, moderate or mildly food insecure.

“The numbers are outrageously high,” she said.

“It should be a call to action to measure hunger. Our sample is limited and perhaps churchgoers are more likely to have lower incomes, but this should raise questions about the level of need across the nation.

“It also speaks to the need for organizations like One Eleuthera, which has a large farm with a non-profit purpose and is building jobs in the community. These efforts are critical if we are going to make a difference in the fight against hunger.”

Karpyn, who 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, made the stunning revelation that often in The Bahamas, the only fruit-based commodity consumed in some communities is tomato paste.

She explained in her presentation that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are “uniquely” vulnerable to food security and that food imports are an important source of food availability, and that those imports typically include highly processed foods. The Bahamas imports $1 billion in food per year.

She added that SIDS face the “triple burden of malnutrition where undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overnutrition (excess calories) coexist”.

“One other point that I made was about Ramen,” she said.

“We don’t have a survey of the complete diets of Bahamians, but based on the shelf space in stores and what interviews told me, I strongly suspect we have a Ramen epidemic on our hands, and healthy nations can not be built on Ramen.”

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.”

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.

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