National Nutrition Week: High rate of diseases prompts focus on fruit and veg

There are many social and environmental benefits for families, schools and communities in growing their own food. Picture: Supplied

There are many social and environmental benefits for families, schools and communities in growing their own food. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 13, 2021


Cape Town - An alliance of health organisations has collaborated with provincial and national Departments of Health and the Department of Basic Education to promote the theme, “Eat more vegetables and fruits every day”, to address the country’s high rate of non-communicable diseases related to diet and lifestyle.

This is in support of National Nutrition Week this week.

The alliance aimed to raise awareness on how non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes as well as significant underand over-nutrition challenges made many South Africans more vulnerable to Covid-19, while highlighting the power of individuals to improve their health through daily food choices.

Western Cape health department spokesperson Nadia Ferreira said: “The health of South Africans remains a concern. An increase in the intake of ultra-processed foods in their diet and a decrease in the intake of vegetables and other more fibrous nutrient-rich foods has been linked to an increase in obesity and being overweight.”

The national Health Department said rising obesity levels and persistent under-nutrition were prevalent in many communities, and they knew that when it came to accessing foods, there was an abundance of nutritionally-poor highly processed foods and a scarcity of seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Jeremy Martin, the Hanover Park Agriculture and Greening Forum’s (consisting of various food gardens run by different farmers) secretary and agriculturalist, agreed.

He said more education on the need for organic crops was required among community members.

“Collaboration around food security is always needed, but the commitment of community individuals wishing to be part of food security programmes and to highlight the importance of eating nutritious, organically produced food is key,” said Martin.

President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Maria van der Merwe said a co-ordinated effort was needed to help many South African families access an affordable variety of fresh produce

“People’s consumption of vegetables and fruits is directly related to their socio-economic situations and food environments. This campaign highlights that there is a need for multiple public and private sectors to work together to increase the availability of affordable vegetables and fruits in our communities, schools and workplaces,” said Wits Health Consortium team lead at UK Better Health Programme SA, Sara Nieuwoudt.

Nieuwoudt said industries that produced and marketed ultra-processed foods and beverages needed to be held accountable for the unhealthy foods that contribute to the development of diseases such as diabetes, cancers and hypertension.