Promoting Sustainable Diets

Lusaka, March 15, 2018

In the recent past, there has been wide spread emphasis on the need to diversify from maize and promote the production and consumption of alternative foods. On 14th March, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and Hivos, held a breakfast meeting to highlight some of the findings from the report “Promoting Sustainable Diets”. The report provides insights on food consumption patterns in Lusaka which are critical for any efforts to influence households’ food consumption patterns in the future.

The timing of the report is advantageous as debates over nshima dependency have been sparked from as high as the president’s office. The meeting was well attended with representation from government, civil society organisations, the private sector and the media. On the panel were representatives from the Lusaka City Council, Hivos,National Food and Nutrition Commission and UNILEVER.

Some of the key findings from the report show that out of the three meals of the day, breakfast is less common among poor households compared to richer ones. Only 29% of the poorest 20% of households in Lusaka eat breakfast on a daily basis, as compared to 88% of the richest 20% of households in Lusaka who are eating breakfast on a daily basis. When probed as to why they are not eating breakfast, 78% of households said it was because they could not afford it.
Another factor that stood out was that consumption of fast foods is significant especially among richer households. About 19 000 households in Lusaka consume processed fast foods and this is cause for concern as this may rise as living standards improve. Our results show that households that are relatively wealthier and households that are in wage employment are more likely to eat fast foods. 62% of the richest 20% of households inLusaka reported they consume fast foods on certain days while only 9% of the poorest 20% of households in Lusaka said the consume fast foods on certain days. This is expected as the richer households tend to have incomes from employment allowing them to be able to by different foods.

With regard to fruits and vegetables, the study found that most consumersconsume vegetables dailybut regarding fruits, it is worrying as only a small share of poor and rich households eat them frequently. When it comes to fruits, only 27% of the richest 20% and 6% of the poorest 20% of households in Lusaka said they consume fruits at least once a day and according to the World Health Organization, consumers should have at least five fruits a day.

When asked about what motivates people to buy the food they buy, price out of all the other options stood out the most, 81% and 83% of the poorest 20% and richest 20% of households in Lusaka respectively said price was a major determinant of the food they purchase. Price was also brought out as a limiting factor to eating healthy foods. The most common barrier to eating healthy foods is that they tend to be expensive. Therefore, making healthy foods affordable would promote their consumption

From the study, most households demonstrated high knowledge of healthy and unhealthy foods but their source of such information is more from friends/family and health personnel than food labels. Results show that only 1% and 6% from the poorest and richest wealth quintiles actually get their information on foods from the packaging label.

Another key finding was that local markets are the most common sources of food for both rich and poor households. Local markets are easy and quicker to access because they are found within neighbourhoods. A concern arising from this is that the hygiene statuses of some these of these local markets can be put into question, as they would contribute to the spread of water borne diseases.

Having highlighted some of the key findings from the report, going forward, CUTS will seek towork with the Lusaka City Council (LCC) in seeing the formulation of advocacy messages and strategies on promoting healthy living through encouraging households to consume diverse and healthier foods. The study brings out insights that can be used as a basis for policy formulation and dissemination of information.

For further information please contact: Chenai Mukumba at or 097 8055 293.