Accessing Food

Accessing Food

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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A recent visit to the market showed fruit and food such as ripe banana for $350-$400 per dozen, ripe plantain $100-$150 per finger, carrot $250, watermelon $100, yellow yam $200, white yam $150, pineapple $150 and onion $200 per pound. A limited-budget household faced with these prices will wonder if ketchup is the perfect substitute for fresh tomatoes! The economic impact of COVID-19 is currently being compared to the global financial crisis of 2008; one of the similarities found is the impact on food security. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods that meet their dietary needs for an active, healthy lifestyle.

It is fair to say, when food prices go up, access goes down. Unfortunately, the Jamaica Agricultural Society estimates that there will be roughly a $30-billion loss to the agricultural sector and an 18-month recovery period. This means there will not be a drop in food prices in the immediate future. Regrettably, wages are not being increased; it is more likely for people to either lose their jobs or experience a pay cut. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) states that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will improve, achieving pre-crisis levels by 2023-2024. But until the economy recovers, we are operating in “ban belly” times; and I daresay that to some, it's a combination of “ban belly” and Ben Johnson Day! People are eating for survival and not necessarily for the dietary needs of their lifestyle.

Wanting to get the most with limited resources, consumers will seek out sales and bargains, and this is a good thing. However, food safety must be incorporated when looking at sales and bargains. Sometimes, you may see two-for-one or other bundle deals; a common sight in the streets of downtown Kingston is handcarts with various imported food items at drastically reduced prices. It is important to pay attention to the expiry date of the products at all times, and especially during times of deals. Consumers should check how close the expiry date is to the date of purchase and when they plan to use the product; if it will not be used before the expiry date do not purchase. And no, you cannot eat it even if it's only one or two days over the expiry date. Were you the one to do the shelf-life study on the product?

For sale on meat products, be smart about purchase; meats that are sticky, slimy or tacky to the touch must not be purchased. Meats considered “touched” must not be eaten. Another common deal will be on canned items; when purchasing these, check to ensure the containers are not damaged. There is no way for the consumer to know if the integrity of the container is maintained so they should not purchase goods with deep dents, leaks or bulges.

Food security means that all people must have access to food at all times; it goes hand in hand with food safety.

Food safety tip: when in doubt, throw it out.


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