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A Nutritious Essential Food Parcel

In true South African-style many organisations, together with the government, have rallied to provide food parcels during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dietitian Kelly Francis sheds light on what a nutritious essential food parcel looks like and how you can contribute.

An adequate intake of energy, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals is essential for optimal health and in the case of children, optimal growth and development. The maintenance of optimal health also requires a strong immune system and while there is no one type of food or group of foods that can boost the immune system for the protection against contagious diseases, a varied diet, rich in fibre and nutrients is the best way to support the immune system when the need for fighting an illness arises. Good nutrition promotes healing and assists in the maintenance of lean body mass during illness recovery.

The average food parcel, is only designed to supplement the food intake of a household and falls short of adequate nutrient provision for a family or household of greater than 2 people.

Stretching these food parcels is therefore, unlikely to provide sufficient hunger relief, especially in the absence of the school feeding schemes which go a long way to supplement the food intake of South Africa’s vulnerable children.

The table below displays the nutrient information for a typical food parcel supplied to a family.

Food Item Energy (kJ) Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
12.5 kg maize meal 172500 950 9250 62.5
5 kg rice 80454.5 409 4166.7 45.5
1.5 L oil (1.5 kg) 55500 0 0 1500
4 cans baked beans

(1.6 kg)

8560 76.8 286.4 8
5 kg instant porridge 75650 305 3550 50
5 kg macaroni 70119 571.4 3178.6 83.3
5 sachets instant soup

(250 g)

297.5 0 11.5 0
5 kg sugar 84900 0 4995 0
750 g powdered milk 13552.5 131.3 447 100.5
500 g soya mince 6479 255 100 10
Total 568012.5 kJ
135888 Cal
2698.5 25985.2 1859.8

As South African citizens we are called to action to help close this gap.

The Ideal Food Parcel

With reference to the nutrient analysis of a typical food parcel, an ideal food parcel would include more non-perishable sources of protein and fibre-rich foods, both of which increase the feeling of fullness in addition to being nutrient-dense.

Therefore, when we make food donations to organisations or in-store trolley collections, we should steer away from the typical food choices that are already being supplied in food parcels.

Nutrient-Dense Food Donation Suggestions

  • Tinned fish: pilchards, tuna canned in oil
  • Fibre-rich staple grains: oats, barley, whole wheat samp
  • Dried legumes: brown lentils, split red lentils, split peas, sugar beans, kidney beans, broad beans
  • Tinned legumes: lentils, mixed beans
  • Tinned vegetables: peas, corn, tomato and onion mix
  • Fresh produce: butternut, gem squash, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges
  • Other: long-life vegetable juice, peanut butter, raisins, popcorn, curry powder, herbs

While we are always called upon to support those in need, the increased hunger that South Africans are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown requires an extraordinary effort and out of the box food donations. Let’s come together and support those in need. These are some of the many organisations doing great work:

National
Food Forward SA
Gift of the Givers
Operation Hunger
The South African Red Cross Society

Gauteng
We Can SA
Dare to Love
Siyabonga Africa
Lesedi la Batho

Kwazulu-Natal
Nation Changers

Western Cape
Love in Action
Project Isizwe
Peninsula School Feeding Association
Ladles of Love

Bio
Kelly Francis earned her BSC Dietetics degree at UKZN. Kelly has been a Registered Dietitian in KZN for 10 years and has a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of nutrition-related diseases. Her special areas of interest include obesity, PCOS and diabetes in all its forms. She enjoys working with both children and adults, helping them to optimize their nutrient intake, for improved long term health. Kelly believes in meeting nutrient requirements with simple, economical and whole-food based meals, suitable for the whole family. She also enjoys getting involved in the menu planning at schools and other organizations.