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Malnutrition stalking the city

Malnutrition stalking the city

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by Joseph Mapp
Marriaqua District Health Team

A gentle look at the meal packages that are offered for sale in Kingstown and their affordability is very revealing. They can be placed in two groups:

1. Those that are less than $10; generally between $5 and $10.

2. Packages that are greater than $10.

The packages that are sold below $10 typically consist of pieces of chicken and one of either French fries (potato chips), fried rice and chow mein. They abound in the vicinities of Heritage Square and Little Tokyo. These meals, especially the French fries (potato chips), are usually dry in eating and patrons often wash them down into the stomach with carbonated (sweet drinks), deemed unhealthy by health care personnel. It should be noted that the portions that accompany the pieces of chicken are carbohydrate foods and the meal is unbalanced in regards to its nutrient content.

It is very obvious that these packages are in greater demand than the other. The outlets attract larger crowds and the queues are longer. More people are seen carrying them.

The other packages that are sold for greater than $10 allow for some kind of consideration as to their balance of food nutrients, with some exceptions. In this region we find those that still consist of chicken and some pieces of potato chips/French fries, but they are more palatable and are highly proclaimed as delicious and finger-licking. Don’t be deceived, they are unbalanced meals just like those below $10.

Dietitians usually explain a balanced diet as consisting of three portions: protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Most often the vegetables are in the form of a raw salad and it is a lack of this portion that makes many meals unbalanced in their nutrient content. It has been observed that it will cost about $5 to have it as an addition to a meal consisting of chicken and either potato chips, fried rice or chow mein. In some cases one is expected to pay more than $15 for chicken and chips and then an additional $5 for a raw salad. This raises the question of affordability and food availability. High vegetable prices are causing people to be malnourished.

The salient point is that the public is being offered meal packages that are not balanced in the nutrient content, at very affordable prices. People respond by making regular purchases and it is causing the prevalence of malnutrition and its related problems, especially diabetes and obesity. There is a chain reaction in that these diseases will have their effect in destroying vital body organs.

What can we, the buying public, do as a response? Remember that the providers of those poorly balanced meals are in the business of making a profit.

1. Eat at home as far as is possible. Stay away from the fast food outlets;

2. Provide your own vegetable salad to supplement the meals that you may purchase from the fast food outlets.

3. Do your own home gardening so as to make up your own supply of vegetables.

4. Spread the word, tell your relatives, friends and neighbours about the dangers of what is happening. Church leaders, teachers and community groups must assist in making a concerted effort to rage a campaign of public education. This can be a powerful weapon.

5. Finally, there must be a will power and a determination to act out what is believed to be right.

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