The HealthyFoodAfrica project is working to transform the food systems towards healthier consumption patterns and diets. Under its thematic Work Package 2 dealing with food consumption and healthy nutrition, the project focuses on implementing nutrition education and consumer awareness among other food system interventions to ensure change in consumption patterns.
Food systems have an impact on diets and therefore on nutrition and health outcomes. Poor diets are a major factor in all forms of malnutrition, with long-term negative effects on health and development, sometimes as a result of dysfunctional food systems. However, food systems are complex, involving a wide range of interdependent activities and actors, from production to consumption, with the consumer at the centre. How consumers interact with the food environment, a key component of the food system, reflects how they make decisions about how to acquire, prepare and consume their food. This means that it is the consumer’s choices and actions that ultimately determine whether or not they consume a healthy diet, in addition to other factors in the food system such as food availability, accessibility, affordability, and so on – hence behaviour change communication is key. Therefore, increasing consumer demand for healthier diets is key to transforming food systems towards sustainable healthy diets.
Designing nutrition education materials and communication channels through a co-creation process
In line with this, WP2 worked with the different Food System Labs (FSLs) to develop nutrition education materials and strategies that can be used to increase consumer awareness of improved diets. To this end, the project adopted a co-creation process, involving partners and stakeholders in each FSL in the materials development process, to ensure that the materials developed were context-specific and locally adapted to meet the specific needs of each FSL. The FSLs were first requested to collect all existing nutrition education materials, after which a round of co-creation workshops were held in the FSLs. In the workshops, stakeholders reviewed these materials, identified gaps and strengths in the materials, developed strategies on how the materials needed to be adjusted, designed or improved to meet the needs and challenges of the FSLs, and agreed on the channels through which behaviour change communication could be implemented based on the context of each FSL.
Based on the findings of the workshops, final nutrition education and awareness materials were developed. The materials developed include posters and flyers. In addition, one FSL (Rwamwanja) is using mobile phones with uploaded nutrition messages to reach the community.
Training of stakeholder groups on the use of nutrition education materials
After the materials were developed, various stakeholders in the FSLs were trained on how to use the materials to reach community members. Some of the trained stakeholders include Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and Village Extension Agents (VEAs), who were given the materials after the training.
Implementation of nutrition education with beneficiaries
Nutrition education is currently ongoing in the FSLs to reach community members including women of reproductive age, caregivers of young children, school children, teachers, school cooks, parents and the general community. Community members will be reached through home visits, community dialogues/meetings, cooking demonstrations and the establishment of school gardens, while integrating nutrition education. The aim of this intervention is to create consumer awareness to enable them to make healthy food choices leading to the consumption of healthy diets. At the end of the intervention, assessments will be conducted in the FSLs to evaluate the impact of the intervention on food consumption and dietary practices of community members.
Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT