Food and nutrient gaps in rural Northern Ghana: Does production of smallholder farming households support adoption of food-based dietary guidelines?
This study (PDF) in Plos One developed local food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) and studied whether these are supported by the diversity and quantity of the production of a household. FBDGs are based on the actual dietary patterns and their costs, thus assumes that the recommended foods are available, affordable and acceptable for the population under study. They provide guidance to policy makers, the private sector and consumers to redesign food systems and to improve diets of vulnerable populations. At household level, the developed FBDGs were unable to sufficiently cover the household requirements for fat, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin C. This implies that even when these FBDGs are fully adopted the requirements for these nutrients will not be met. In addition, the nutrient needs and food needs of a household were only marginally covered by their own food production. Diversifying household food production is often proposed as a means to increase the diversity of foods available and thereby increasing dietary diversity of rural populations. Here, the diversity of the production of a household was indeed positively related with their food and nutrient coverage. However, the diversity of the production of a household and their food and nutrient coverage were not related with children’s dietary diversity and nutrient adequacy. Results show that the production of a households does not support the adoption of FBDGs in rural Northern Ghana, especially for vegetables. This suggests that the promotion of FBDGs through nutrition education or behaviour change communications activities alone is insufficient to lead to improvements in diets. Additional strategies are needed to increase the food availability and accessibility of the households, especially that of fruits and vegetables, such as diversification of the crops grown, increased production of specific crops and market-based strategies.