We live in an age where healthy eating is thrown in our faces. From the new aesthetic on Instagram that broadcasts every meal to the calorie counting meal deals in Boots and Tesco. One can deem western society as somewhat obsessed with being healthy, eating well and finding the newest superfood, whatever that it. This brings forth a dilemma for those in the western world that want to indulge in this new phase though also want to keep their cultural foods and ethnic diets. It raises the question, how can one obtain food sovereignty whilst doing this. Food sovereignty can be defined when ‘all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO).
I grew up on Ghanaian food due to my parents being of Ghanaian decent. This includes a variety of different rice’s, such as jollof rice. This is prepared ‘prepared from a tomato base sauce made up of blended tomatoes, onions, sweet bell peppers and chilli peppers which are usually scotch bonnet peppers, and seasoned with Maggi stock cubes, with no other added vegetables’(BBC Food). The calorie intake per serving is 705kcal. (BBC Food). Due to the primary ingredient being rice it is high in carbohydrates. Another staple Ghaniain food in which I grew up on is Fufu, this is made by pounding cassava and adding water. This is eaten with soap and meat. This is an instant carbohydrate ‘with no real nutrition’ (well a health).
Despite being raised on such foods I never made an effort of how to make and prepare these time-consuming foods. Soo when I started university it was an easy diet of baked chicken or salmon accompanied with vegetables or rice for dinner and fruit during my busy on the go days. This new diet wasn’t due to me being more health conscious but rather an easy and quick meal that would fill me up. This unintendedly allowed me to lose weight, gain more energy during the days. It was when I went home for Christmas and reading weeks that I discovered how the food I grew up with really did affect my energy during the days and how negatively they made my body feel.
From this new realisation, I was met with the dilemma with wanting to uphold my ethnic and cultural identity through food but also wanting to maintain my new body on the inside and outside. The task was now how I can maintain my new-found food sovereignty whilst still adhering to my cultural identity.
Though this was a new dilemma for me it was not entirely rare. My own personal dilemma links to the existing one going on in Ghana. The task of providing access to nutritious food that still pertains to the countries cultural identity is an issue. We’ve now moved away from the starving child narrative and onto the importance of the food we consume. Questions such as, how can the country solve its micronutrient deficiency with the countries staple foods are now prevalent? Though this mind-set is being more recently being explored it has been around for some time. For example in ‘2013 there was a government scheme to get people to use less palm oil’, for health intentions (Henderson, 2014).
Micronutrient deficiency is a big problem in Ghana, affecting mainly women and children. This occurrence is due to the three ‘commonest micronutrient deficiencies belonging to iron, iodine and vitamin A’ (Modern Ghana,2013). Such micronutrient deficiencies make’s Ghana a food insecure nation due to the lack of nutrients and unacceptable food consumption behaviours and patterns.
This issue of micronutrient deficiency has led to organisations and government schemes to combat this. An example of this is the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) organising a two-day workshop focusing on healthy eating and nutrition. The workshop had the aim to ‘equip participants with knowledge on healthy eating’ (GhanaNewsAgency,2015). Participants of the workshop were expected to go back and teach/ train these new skills and information to school teachers in order to educate their students. This programme moves away from the notion of simply diminishing hunger but to ensure that the children are ‘eating nutritious and wholesome food’(HGSF).
One other programme is the Ghana School feeding programme, this is a government scheme to enhance food security and eradicate malnutrition. The basic concept of the programme is to provide one hot nutritious meal, prepared from locally grown food items (World Food Programme, 2016). The specific use of locally grown food allows for organic and thus a nutritious food. The meal being supplied to every child once a day create a food secure generation due to the access. Food justice is also prevalent with the government programme for it allows communities to exercise their right to grow and eat healthy food due to the locally grown means. Here we also see the incorporation of organic foods which are also traditional Ghanaian food. Subsequently we see the perfect blend of nutritious food whilst maintaining ethical foods.
In conclusion, one can identify my new-found health conscious mentality whilst trying to maintain my cultural and ethical traditions with Ghana’s move to create a more health-conscious society without transforming into a western clone. Such a dilemma recognises the issue of obtaining food sovereignty in this developing country and also the rights to food justice through government initiatives.