Impact of food aid on food variety and dietary diversity of an elderly community in Sharpeville, South Africa

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Objective: The objective of this paper was to discuss the impact of a two-year food aid intervention programme on dietary diversity and adequacy of an elderly community. This project was undertaken amongst the elderly (n=300), voluntarily attending a day care centre in Sharpeville, South Africa. In a baseline study (2004) in this community the dietary diversity scoring (DDS) method revealed low dietary diversity (3.41) and food variety (4.77) scores (FVS), and a trend that higher scores resulted in a better mean nutrient adequacy ratio. An intervention study, implemented in 2005, aimed to improve the dietary diversity of this elderly community by providing breakfast and lunch five days a week at the care centre. The impact of this food aid was investigated by comparing the DDS, FVS and nutrient adequacy ratios (NAR) before and after the intervention. Methods: The methods included socio-demographic, health, food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), 24 hour-recall (24h-recall), anthropometric and biochemical measurements in 107 elderly people who regularly attended the care centre since 2004. Results: At baseline, the majority of respondents (n=82, 55.1%) were classified with low DDS utilizing 0-3 food groups compared to after the intervention, where 98.1% (n=105) was classified with a high dietary diversity utilizing all nine nutritious food groups. The mean individual DDS of 3.41 that improved to 8.5 after the intervention further supported this. The mean adequacy ratio (MAR) showed a statistically significant improvement from baseline (0.77±0.48) to 1.02±0.66 after the intervention, indicating improvement of the adequacy of the overall diet to meet the daily requirements for this elderly community. Conclusions: The results of this study represent the first demonstration that food aid proved to be an effective short term nutrition intervention that improved the level of dietary diversity. Other food-based approaches or nutrition education activities should be implemented simultaneously to improve self-sufficiency in such a community for long-term effectiveness in terms of nutrient inadequacy and dietary diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-308
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Dietary diversity
  • Elderly
  • Food variety
  • Household food insecurity
  • Nutrient adequacy


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