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by Afiya De Sormeaux, Junior Consultant, CaRAPN

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is our current cultural state a hindrance to food and nutrition security? In other words, is modern culture the reason for the dilapidated state of agriculture and food and nutrition security in the region? I’m asking this because traditionally, the man would be the breadwinner at the home - going to work and providing for his family - while the woman in the home would prepare the meals, usually from the local commodities supplied by village farmers. However, in these modern times, both the man and the woman of the house are at work, leaving a severe time pressure with respect to meal preparation. I know many of you out there can identify with this, because it’s challenging at the end of a hard day’s work to come home and prepare a meal from scratch. So what do we demand? Highly processed, ready to cook meals that won’t take us as long to prepare. And who could blame you for that? The idea is to feed your family by any means while earning a living to secure meals for the future, right? But there are at least two important things that need to be accounted for here. One, which I like to refer to as the

'Money = Food' syndrome, a similar sentiment that was expressed by Mr. Steve Maximay during the Agriculture Round Table (ART) in Dominica (2011):

Trinidad and Tobago's food security policy deals with ensuring that the country can purchase 11 months of food to feed its people.” But what is not considered is, what if you do have money, and no one wants to sell you any food? Recall that during the recession of 2010-2011, Russia stopped its exports of wheat, crippling markets around the world.

its exports of wheat, crippling markets around the world. BOX 1: The RFNP has indeed identified

BOX 1: The RFNP has indeed identified the results of our culture where it stated in its Rationale:

There is a very high and increasing dependence on imported food and uncertainty of food arrival (because of what we choose to purchase and consume); Declines in earnings from traditional crops(maybe because we depend less on the local farmer); The erosion and threatened loss of trade preferences for traditional export crops, the earnings from which are utilized to purchase imported food. (2. Rationale 2.8, p. 9, Regional Food and Nutrition Security (RFNSP), 14 th October, 2010)

The second, as expressed by Ms. Diana Francis focuses on nutrition: eating food or providing food does not mean that you are nourishing yourself or your family.But what if your tummy is filled but your body is empty?

I’m sorry it struck a nerve, but I’m about to strike some more. I know that there are evenings when you get home where you look at your spouse and say 'I don’t want to cook today I’m

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P P o o l l i i c c i i e e s

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tiiiiirredd , let’s eat out'. And you do this once a week, for the first month, but by the end of the year and for the rest of your life, you eat out at least 3 times a week, simply because you can afford it. What this leads to is a phenomenon that is sweeping the region, a dramatic increase in the amount of fast service food outlets, restaurants and fast food chains. And people

still act surprised when they have access to XYZ chicken around every corner. To summarize what our modern culture is doing to us, we eat out at least 3 times a week, and when we eat in, we eat highly processed foods that are not even produced in the region. And that’s cool, you have the money to do that, you worked for that privilege. But to quote Mr. Julius Gittens, a self-employed communications specialist and member of the independent media in Barbados, Wait. Am I not with every single purchase I make at this place impoverishing my neighbor who’s growing the lettuce and the cabbage and the stuff…” You’re declining to eat these foods because it requires that you spend 5 minutes to peal and wash. In the process the farmer's business is jeopardized and eventually destroyed by your newly developed culture.

BOX 2: Data compiled by the Caribbean Food & Nutrition Institute (CFNI) show that fat and obese children account for as much as 15 per cent of their population group in various Caribbean countries (Caribbean Unity To Fight Chronic Diseases Epidemic : Obesity A Major Target CARICOM Secretariat Press Release 194/2007 (28 August 2007))

Ask yourself what happens to our bodies when we continue with this culture. Obesity per capita is increasing in the region and some still think it’s a phenomenon that can be explained when in fact, the habits of the home significantly contribute to it (BOX 2). Ask yourself, what happens to the future when the countries which we import from no longer wish to export to us because of a world crisis or country-specific event. Will you eat your money? Maybe it’s time we change our culture. Maybe it’s time we actually listen to what our regional food and nutrition policies have to say with respect to patterning our lives to make ourselves food and nutrition safe. Or we could just wait and see if our culture will eventually destroy us, our agriculture, and our traditions as well.

Tell me what you think, leave a question, a comment, but correct me if I’m wrong

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