In May 2022, we talked about how much information is behind the eating behavior of the population, presented in the structure of food consumption.
that there is nothing more than the average eating behavior of a group of people, not what they end up consuming, but most of the time, which makes it possible to get closer to what they usually consume. This article addresses some of these aspects again as we have the latest (2023) news on fruit and vegetable consumption in the Venezuelan metropolitan area from the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (ACFIMAN) project. .
Why is it important to know the consumption of fruits and vegetables and how does this relate to the food security of the population?
The food pattern is a product not only of the culture, customs or eating habits of individuals, but of all the factors that influence food security (availability, accessibility in terms of quantity and quality of adequate food, etc.). There are many elements that influence the consumption pattern, and studying it in a population is very important because of the aspects involved, one of which is the existing relationship between nutrition and disease, in addition to allowing policies to be developed in favor of social development. , proposing measures to create a healthy society and guiding companies aimed at providing consumer services in the country.
In 2015, the Venezuelan Nutrition and Health Study (EVANS) focused on identifying general dietary patterns as well as sub-patterns that depend on socio-demographic factors and link them to energy and macronutrient intake. The study identified five consumption patterns based on their nutritional composition. The most common structure and lowest nutritional quality is pattern 5 (35% of the population), present throughout the national geography, mainly in Guyana, but also in the western and metropolitan regions, where it is shared by half of its inhabitants. Pattern 1 with a high level of adequacy is present in only 6% of the population. Model 2, more representative of the Andes and the central region, represents an adequate intake of almost all nutrients. Pattern 3, characteristic of the plains and the western region, in which there is a high consumption of meat, fats and cereals; and type 4, more typical of the eastern region and Guyana, with a predominance of fish and fruits. Models show geographic variation and high nutritional vulnerability in the 35% of the population whose average calorie intake reaches survival levels. On the other hand, the Consumption Monitoring Study (ESCA) conducted by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) also reflected a decline in the consumption of almost all foodstuffs in 2015.
Next, we will talk about a group of foods of particular interest to us: fruits and vegetables (FyH), and ask ourselves if there is a known consumption pattern in Venezuela.
Food insecurity, dietary diversity and fruit and vegetable consumption in Venezuela
- In 2019, the World Food Program conducted a needs and vulnerability assessment of Venezuelan households. The results showed high levels of food insecurity across the country, with one in three Venezuelans suffering from food insecurity and in need of assistance. The lack of diversity in the diet caused great concern. Consumption of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruits was set below three days a week. Lack of dietary diversity is indicative of nutrient deficiencies, and F&H consumption is a good indicator of this.
- There are several studies evaluating FyH intake in the diet of the Venezuelan population, so there is no data on factors that may influence this:
- According to the latest National Food Consumption Survey (ENCA) published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) in 2015, fruit consumption was 85.5 grams per person per day and vegetable consumption was 82.1 grams per person per day. The recommendation of the World Health Organization is 400 g per day.
- In 2015, the Venezuelan Nutrition and Health Survey (EVANS) examined fruit and vegetable consumption patterns in urban Venezuela and found that the majority of the population does not consume enough FyH daily (231.8d). Six patterns were identified with characteristics as varied as culinary use, quantity consumed, type, shape and color. None of the samples met the recommendations for diversity, balance and quantity of FyH intake, which, according to the authors, contributes to the improvement of the food and nutrition situation in Venezuela.
- The Living Conditions Survey (ENCOVI) recorded a sudden change in FyH consumption due to purchase intention, registering a decline in weekly fruit purchase intention of 5.1% in 2015 and 22.3% in 2017, almost threefold. less than in 2014. As for vegetables, in 2017, 17.2% of Venezuelan households stopped planning to buy them. In 2014-2016 the proportion of households acquired by 63.9% and 18.8% of households, respectively, decreased to 34% and 11.5% in 2017.
- ENCOVI 2021 compares 2020 and 2021 and when looking at food spending by item and the poverty rate of Venezuelan households, all strata reduced their food spending and cut their food and labor costs significantly, with Venezuelan households being “non-poor” in which the greatest decrease was found.
- FyH is notoriously absent from public aid programs such as CLAP boxes and bags. The government also did not innovate, for example by including vouchers in its aid programs as an alternative to facilitate FyH access to fairs, peasant/municipal/wholesale markets/supermarkets to purchase them by applying the value of these conditional vouchers. , for this particular purpose.
- FyHs are rarely seen in school feeding programs, even those run by the World Food Program, which has recently started operations in Venezuela.
F&H is very expensive, but there are also no information campaigns about its uses, benefits, forms of consumption and preparation to raise awareness of its benefits to help families – mostly female households – consider the positive cost-benefit ratio of F&H.
The issue of access to healthy food is a priority for the United Nations and its food-related agencies, which is why it has become the focus of recent The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) reports. ). SOFI 2022 advocates for: a) supporting food and agriculture to distribute it to nutritious foods where per capita consumption still falls short of recommended levels for a healthy diet; b) because governments are adapting resources to encourage the production, supply and consumption of nutritious foods and to make healthy food less expensive and more accessible/equitable for all people; and c) urges governments to do more to lower barriers to trade in nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Acfiman project to fight fruit and vegetable consumption
In its food safety program, ACFIMAN decided to address the issue of FyH consumption, which was last updated in 2015, through a project called “Contributing to the study of trends in fruit and vegetable consumption in a sample from the Venezuelan Capital Region”, which aims to obtain information using an electronic survey on trends in consumption patterns and aspects of availability, accessibility and sustainability of fruits and vegetables (FyH) based on a sample of households from five municipalities (Libertador, Sucre, Baruta, Chacao and El Hatillo) of the Capital Region. The questionnaire attempted to obtain information to: a) describe household consumption patterns and levels of F&H consumption; b) evaluate how income affects the cost of food and wages and its consumption; c) identify trends driving F&H requirements, focusing on diversity, housekeeping, eating habits; d) identify simple sustainable food production practices used in households, if any (any family production model, local purchase of food and services, household food and food waste, composting).
In the next article, we will present results that suggest that while one of the limitations of the study is that it has a bias towards the middle class, which does not reflect the distribution of households in the studied municipalities, it produces interesting results. and, for example, the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the surveyed Caracas households is below the global recommendation, taking into account the difference in consumption by social strata: layers III-V (140 g/day) and layer I (290 g/day). . Recall that as a public health recommendation, the World Health Organization indicates a daily intake of at least 400 g net between fruits and a variety of vegetables, which can be divided into 5 servings per day (80 g per serving), and recommends including them in the diet. in policies and national dietary guidelines for the population and individuals. Likewise, the results may provide insight into a reality before which it is important to make public health recommendations and propose general plans that guarantee varied, healthy and affordable nutrition for all social sections of the Venezuelan population. We will be very happy to tell you more about the results of this project.
Maria Soledad Tapia