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Dietary adequacy of rural school children among bambara groundnut growing farmers in Ntchisi district of Malawi

P Katungwe
A Mwangwela
N Geresomo


In Malawi, malnutrition among school-aged children as indicated by 30% stunting, 18% underweight and 3% wasting levels is a problem that is being addressed through school feeding programs. The nutritional status of school going children is dependent on household food security, education level of the parents, food preference of the parents and food preparation constraints. These factors affect food consumption patterns of children which is one of the determining factors of nutritional status. A study was, therefore, conducted to explore the food consumption patterns and diet adequacy for school going children aged 7-9 years in Kalira EPA of Ntchisi district in Malawi. Seventy eight school children whose parents were involved in bambara groundnut (Vigna unguiculata) farming were recruited for the study. Demographic information and data on food consumption pattern and intake during postharvest and pre-planting periods was collected using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire included an interactive 24-hour dietary recall and dietary diversity score (DDS) tools. The children came from mainly male-headed households (91%) with 6 ± 2 members. The household heads had attained upper primary education and their main (89.7%) occupation was farming. The school-age children were consuming two carbohydrate based meals per day accompanied with leafy vegetables (34.1%) or stewed pulses (46.6%). Nsima (a stiff porridge made from maize flour) and thin maize flour porridge were the dominant carbohydrate sources in the diet. Only 12% of the children reported consuming animal source foods. Most of the school children were eating three times or less in a day with lunch and supper as the major meals. The diet of the school children did not meet the recommended dietary allowance for energy (69%), fat (21%), vitamin A (24%), iron (65%) and calcium (28%). However, the diet was providing adequate protein intake for the children. Snacks in the form of roasted sweet potatoes or maize and bananas were provided to 26.1% of the school children when going to school, while only 28.4% were provided with breakfast before going to school. Breakfast consisted of black tea or porridge made from whole maize flour. Diets of the majority (68%) of the school going had minimum diversity according to the diversity score. The dietary pattern for the school children was the same during the postharvest and pre-planting period.

Key words: adequacy, diet, diversity, school, children.