The Bahamas is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its tourism and beautiful beaches. However, despite being a relatively wealthy country due to tourism, hunger in the Bahamas remains a prominent concern.
The Bahamas also face frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes which further aggravate the issue. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has also left many Bahamians without access to food. Furthermore, these disasters also increase the price and decrease the availability of food in the country. Here are five facts about hunger in the Bahamas.
5 Facts About Hunger in the Bahamas
- Prevalence: According to Hands for Hunger, one in every 10 people in the Bahamas experience extreme food insecurity and have less than $4 to spend on food a day. This prevalence is significant because only 10% of the food consumed is produced in the Bahamas. A study by The Caribbean Agro-Economic Society concluded 41% of the households were food insecure and factors such as age, education and gender all played a factor. Around 20% of households required assistance from the government to provide adequate food to their families. It also concluded that people take an active role in producing at least one aspect of their food, revealing a reported 45 % caught their own fish. To combat this issue and encourage more active participation in acquiring food, the government is pushing for more local farming by encouraging farmer’s markets and community gardens.
- Agriculture: The soil in the Bahamans is unsuitable for commercial farming due to its high pH levels. This leads to a greater need for the importation of many crops. This increases the selling price and contributes to greater food insecurity. Additionally, farmers struggle to produce enough food to reach wholesalers, forcing them to discard most of their crops. The Ministry of and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are working to teach farmers more sustainable farming. The Ministry is also working to create a Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan to help the Bahamas become more independent in producing food by using new farming techniques.
- Impact on Education: School-aged children in the Bahamas are largely affected by hunger. Food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to comprehend and learn information effectively because they are constantly concerned about where their next meal will come from. Research shows a correlation between food insecurity and poor academic performance, which can lead to dropping out. The Bahamas has a National Lunch Program in effect and is researching ways to expand the program and provide food to children over weekends and school breaks. Researchers found that while most students on the island of Eleuthera consume breakfast, around 65 % of their schools do not have an option for breakfast. School administrators also reported children coming to school hungry and only consuming unhealthy junk food such as chips and soda. Researchers suggest more education about healthy eating habits with both parents and children as well as a National Breakfast plan should be implemented. These changes would improve children’s school performance and overall wellbeing.
- COVID-19’s effect: COVID-19 has revealed the extent of hunger in the Bahamas. Importing food has become more difficult with less overall production and travel restrictions causing citizens to panic. However, it has brought the issue to the forefront of the government’s mind and forced them to act. The government is considering how to gain greater accessible land and more ways to help small farmers get started. The pandemic served as a true wake up call for the government to address the problem head-on.
- Progress: A non-profit organization, Hands for Hunger, is dedicated to solving the hunger crisis in the Bahamas. Since its founding in 2008, they have provided Bahamians more than one million pounds of redistributed food. Hands for Hunger works to ensure a larger number of food-secure Bahamians; the group redistributes food from restaurants, hotels, etc., and provides it to families in need. Furthermore, Hands for Hunger is helping reduce CO2 emissions because less food is going to landfills. Hands for Hunger continues to expand its network and is leading the Bahamas to a brighter future.
Change is needed and coming into the food production system in the Bahamas. With improved access for citizens to independently produce more food, the Bahamas will have less obesity, greater academic accomplishments, improved economy, and better quality of life for its citizens. Organizations such as Hands for Hunger are at the forefront of this change. These changes will allow the Bahamas to be known to the world as more than just a beautiful vacation spot.
– Allison Caso