Editor's Note [Volume 20 No. 4 (2020)]

NUTRITION AND FOOD SECURITY DURING THE PANDEMIC

Remember, so far nobody knows how long the COVID-19 will last. From December 2019 to now, we are looking at another December while still in the dark. Everyone has to decide what they will have achieved by the time this very strange year ends. We continue to pray that we survive even as we condole and remember those who have been harshly impacted: lost a loved one, or someone in the family falling ill, who could be the breadwinner.

As I sit and watch the television during this pandemic time, I can see expressions of concern by people that are well off or can afford to put on unwanted weight. One wonders whether it is because they are eating the wrong foods, or exercising little, or both, or because food has become the soother and comforter. Our lives will never be the same when it is all over, if ever. In countries where infections have gone down, still, new ones flare-up in some parts and also in some countries including mine, Kenya, numbers keep rising, even when control measures have been put in place. We just have to try and follow the global advisory: wear a mask, social distance and wash hands with soap or sanitizer as many times as possible, and observe the highest hygiene as we can. Our Guest Editor for this issue is Dr. Arthur Kwena who is a Public Health expert and was kind enough to write on hand washing.

It is no doubt people’s relationship with food is different and unique during lockdowns. For example, we expect there to be more cooking at home and, thank God, one can now find both recipes and methods of preparation online, and even how to cook more healthily; after much practice, one could come out a skilled cook.

A concern I have is that of food safety. Consumers are likely to stockpile fearing that foods might run out. With limited knowledge on how to store food, one is likely to see more food spoilage, food waste and food related illnesses. Again, one can find this information online, otherwise, you will be doing yourself and family more harm than good. Just remember, cooler temperatures keep foodstuffs longer and safer, but there is a limit. When in doubt, go to your google library or call a friend in the know on what to do.

Already many economies around the world are taking a beating as commercial eating places close and workers are sent home. Such is a major indication of business plummeting. This is happening because people who work are the ones who patronize the restaurants; but with major job losses, there is no such business, and even for those who are still working, they are exercising frugality in how they spend because they are not sure of their future. With limited clientele, the food is going to be more expensive, including takeaway meals. Therefore, we can eat more cheaply and healthily at home. Maybe this is the time to learn how to prepare healthy meals at home, to learn simple nutrition, and to encourage traditional cooking and cuisine.

Simple advice: exercise daily and regularly (just be up and about), as that, helps with your muscle tone and blood circulation; eat more vegetables, some fruits, and less sugar, less salt, less fat and less starch, as these components tend to lead to other maladies. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your body and organs hydrated and healthy. It is advisable to spend some time, at least one hour in the sun. This will boost your immune system. Remember, you need strong immunity to safeguard against communicable diseases including COVID-19. Other immune boosters include vitamin C found in fresh fruits especially the orange and lemon family; Zinc and vitamin E, can be found in beans, lentils and other legumes, and whole cereals.

Now to school children who have been affected in ways we could never have imagined. Reopening schools is one action policymakers everywhere and even parents are afraid of doing in these times of COVID-19. Kenya, a country of 47 million people has over 18 million children in school. Most children attend neighborhood schools up to class 8, but we have boarding schools as well all over the country where some parents with means opt to take their children. Secondary schools that most parents look for are scattered all over and so reopening when infection numbers are still up would expose children to the virus as they crisscross the country heading to their schools. The online option has introduced inequalities that will be difficult to correct in the future. For able parents, they can keep their children busy at home, learning online and engaged in extracurricular activities such as piano. For those who are not able to afford, and have to go out to work, children are not safe at home. For many children, not being in school is a real danger. Many are involved in anti-social behavior, some are being used to help make illegal brew or get involved in fishing, or to traffic drugs. Teenage pregnancies have gone up more than 40 percent, and those responsible include family members. My organization Rural Outreach Africa has before the Coronavirus pandemic been helping children in schools to appreciate agriculture and food security. We have also managed to get their parents involved. A commentary by NJERI KARANU describes the current difficulties rural school children are facing and what our organization is doing to help. We are now following up with parents at home to encourage them to keep their children busy through the same activities over the next 6 months. Children do not need to stay idle. They should help to produce a diversity of foods to promote good nutrition to build strong immunity and also keep learning as they keep themselves busy both physically and cognitively.

Some of the teachers are quite innovative and know how to keep the children busy away from school. We are looking for resources to support this very noble work. Should you be interested in partnering with us, especially as a sponsor, please send a message to oniango@iconnect.co.ke or knjeri2003@gmail.com

In this issue we have 16 thoroughly reviewed papers, some interesting commentaries and and profiles of 4 of our reviewers, reviewers without whom we cannot accomplish all that we do to produce a scholarly journal. We value and appreciate everyone.

Ruth K. Oniang'o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

 

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