Food Crisis

Jul 26 2022. views 48

A worldwide crisis brought on by record-high food prices will push millions more people into severe poverty, exacerbate hunger and malnutrition, and threaten to undo years of hard-won progress. People in low- and middle-income nations are more affected by rising food costs than those in high-income countries because they spend a higher percentage of their income on food. 

The World Food Programme (WFP),  the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, states that about 3 in 10 households (6.26 million people) are food insecure, 65,600 of which are severely food insecure, according to their latest food security assessment on Sri Lanka.

The WFP report further states that the majority of assessed households (61 percent) are regularly employing food-based coping strategies such as eating less preferred and less nutritious food and reducing the amount of food they eat. Two in five households are not consuming adequate diets. Daily Mirror sat down with Prof. KKDS Ranaweera, Department Head of  Food Science and Technology of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, to delve deeper into the looming food security crisis. 

Food inflation and health 
Prof. KKDS Ranaweera said that the stability of food supply chains is crucial to people’s food security in any community. “As far as food inflation in Sri Lanka is concerned, Month-on-month percentage change in the price of a standard basket of food can show us where we are heading and how we are suffering in every aspect. Food inflation has affected eating habits drastically. Food inflation has made it difficult for people to afford basic food baskets. Food is a basic human physiological need important for survival, growth, health, and general well-being. So, food inflation, in turn, has a devastating effect on the health of poor households. Food inflation is outpacing the income levels of the households, intensifying income disparities, and food Inflation makes it hard to make healthy food choices”, he said. 

In addition, he said that what people can afford within a low budget may not provide qualitatively and quantitatively sound nutrients for meeting nutritional requirements. “This leads to health issues associated with nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that are required in minute quantities but play a vital role in normal human growth, development, and physiological functioning. Micronutrient deficiencies (MND) are progressive, and cannot be identified clinically until they are in their late stages; hence, MND is referred to as a “hidden hunger”. Also, macro- and micronutrient deficiencies occur simultaneously. Association of Micronutrient deficiencies happen with different socioeconomic and dietary factors, nutritional status, and anaemia at different levels”, he added. 

He also said that attention should be given to vulnerable groups, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, children, and adolescents. Consequences of nutrient deficiencies, especially in children, are malnutrition, retarded growth, loss of immunity, and low concentration. Furthermore, he added that supplementation and food fortification are the most commonly used strategies to alleviate Micronutrient deficiencies in Sri Lanka. However, consuming vegetables, including leafy vegetables, can help resolve micronutrient deficiencies.  

Healthy meal for a lower price 
Prof. KKDS Ranaweera said that when meat or poultry is not affordable, we may go for cheaper protein foods like eggs, soy, cowpea, chickpea etc. “Rice is a source of starch, so it would be ideal for us to seek other starch sources like Cassava and sweet potato,’’ he added.       

In addition, Prof. Ranaweera highlighted that authorities and media organisations must encourage restructuring gardens by converting a balanced garden composed of food, plant, and flowers. “ They must encourage masses to have different leafy vegetable conjees as a part of breakfast which contains minerals, vitamins, and bioactive compounds. But, most importantly, we must avoid junk food”, he said. 
Restaurant owners and the food battle 

Thisal Walgamage, the manager of Sanara Mandira hotel, reception hall, and catering Kiribathgoda speaking to Daily Mirror said that customers are hesitant to arrange parties, weddings or any other event due to the fuel crisis. “ Most of the time, it is difficult for us to decide the number of food plates. Due to the prevailing situation in the country, the majority of the guests face unprecedented circumstances, so most of the time, events are complicated during the crisis”, he said. He also added that if there is excessive or leftover food, the food is usually shared among the staff members. 

S.K Kisal, Group Director of the Dutchman’s street restaurant, Fort Matara, said that certain business survival strategies are adopted to overcome the current crisis. “ Knowing the fact that there is no escape from the ongoing fuel and food crisis, we adopted some business survival strategies. Accordingly, we cut short operational times in order to cater at peak hours and shortlist meal options on the menu. At the same time, we make available food items on the menu which are locally fresh and freely available in today’s market. Above all, we are compelled to increase the prices of the items just to match the current market price of the raw materials that are purchased”, he added. 

Commenting on the power outages and their impact, he said that power cuts have adversely affected the business.” Customers walk away from the restaurant dissatisfied when we are unable to provide certain meals. Foreign guests do not tolerate such instances as they expect the best possible service from us. To address such troubled times we decided to have a generator in the house to keep all our customers happy and satisfied. It is needless to say that the bottom line of such a venture is to bear an extra operational cost to the organization”, he added. 

Commenting on the food preserving methods that are utilized within the restaurant Kisal said that mostly the meat and some vegetable items are kept frozen. He also added that certain carb items are kept boiled. “With the existing unpredictable situation, our kitchen staff has concerns over new and conventional preservation methods and are currently under research and development stage”, he added. 

In addition, he said that whatever the situation, customers come hungry and thirsty to have a nice meal with a relaxing ambience. “ So we are always ready and willingly serve them with a happy smile putting all our troubles behind us”.

By Dinuli Francisco            




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