DIETARY PATTERN, HOUSEHOLD HUNGER, COPING STRATEGIES AND NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CHILDREN IN SEKHUKHUNE DISTRICT OF LIMPOPO PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA
Globally, approximately one out of every nine people do not get enough food to eat. The situation is more persistent in the sub-Saharan region of Africa with an estimated 23.2% of the population experiencing food deprivation. The aim of this study was to determine the dietary pattern, prevalence of hunger, the association between household hunger and nutritional status of children under 12 years, and the coping strategies that mothers use to adapt to periods of food deprivation in their households in Sekhukhune district. An analytical study design was used. A structured, interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to survey mothers/caregivers and their children from 180 households selected from nine villages by means of systematic random sampling. Anthropometric measurements were used to determine caregivers and children’s nutritional status. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 was used to analyse the collected data. Descriptive and inferential (Chi-square (χ2) test) statistics were used. The results indicated that the main food items consumed by most children were mealie/maize meal, sugar, tea, iodised salt, bread, and meat. The findings revealed that 44.4% of households were food insecure, whereas 33.9% were at risk of hunger, and only 21.7% were food secure. The main coping strategies used were borrowing food from neighbours, family or friends, and borrowing food from the local shops. Anthropometric indices were associated with food availability and the utilisation of coping strategies such as sending children to neighbours asking for food, credit from local shops, reducing food portions, or even sometimes sending children to bed hungry (p<0.05). About four to five out of ten children sometimes go to bed hungry. Households borrowing food from neighbours, family or friends, and credit from the local shop were the most common coping strategies. The need for nutrition education on low cost nutritious diets and sustainable food programmes intervention strategies are required in Sekhukhune District. In addition, positive response modes for coping with food deprivation, such as the use of wild foods and livestock should be encouraged.