Food Insecurity in The BahamasAside from a vacation spot, The Bahamas is home to approximately 388,000 people, 12.5% of whom are in poverty. Living in poverty presents secondary challenges such as food insecurity. Food products in The Bahamas come with a noticeable price tag. This is because the island imports nearly 90% of these items. Expensive food prices not only affect the economy and any employment opportunities arising from local agriculture but also alienate those who cannot afford these food prices. As a result, food insecurity in The Bahamas is a significant issue that requires addressing.

Statistics Behind Food Insecurity

According to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), 21% of people experienced food insecurity in The Bahamas during 2017. This means that almost a quarter of Bahamians experienced a lack of consistent access to adequate food to lead a healthy life, whether through missing meals or being unable to consistently afford quality food products.

This is largely a result of a weak food and agricultural infrastructure and a heavy reliance on imports. Food and agriculture contributed to less than 1% of The Bahamas’ GDP in 2018. This leaves the vulnerable population largely at the mercy of import prices. It also often puts Bahamians in a position where they may not have consistent access to quality food and food products.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated and shed light on the existing challenges in The Bahamas. As a heavily tourism-dependent economy, many people found themselves without work and without a consistent income. This made it increasingly difficult for people to afford the food prices arising from the globally disrupted supply chain.

The Bahamas Feeding Network

The Bahamas Feeding Network uniquely stands out from the crowd when addressing food insecurity. Operating more as a channel, BFN works to coordinate and distribute resources among its member organizations. BFN and its member organizations organized finances, feeding programs, food and non-food supplies, making the fight against food insecurity more effective.

BFN also works to improve communication between different organizations. It is developing a database with times and locations of feeding programs while identifying the most underserved areas in The Bahamas.

In 2013, BFN had 13 member organizations. Now, it has more than 100 feeding centers and programs. Through frequent partnerships with Rotary Clubs, The Bahamas Feeding Network is able to mobilize resources and financial support for organizations fighting food insecurity.

BFN and the Rotary Club donated money to Hands for Hunger, an NGO dedicated to distributing food to disadvantaged people. Thanks to this funding, the organization was able to distribute food vouchers to 100 families in March 2021. BFN also receives support from the Chinese ambassador.

National Food Distribution Task Force

BFN joined forces with the Government of The Bahamas and several NGOs to form the National Food Distribution Task Force (NFDTF). The task force through majority government funding targeted people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each participating NGO delivered food relief to Bahamian residents in the form of food parcels and vouchers. Within the first official month of its formation in June 2020, the task force was able to assist more than 76,000 people.

BFN uniquely approaches the fight against food insecurity in The Bahamas. Mobilizing support and organizing and distributing resources among the many organizations addressing this specific issue creates a grid of cooperation that maximizes the effectiveness of members’ efforts.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Of the several nations and the many diverse peoples of Central America and the Caribbean, The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful and iconic. Well known for its thriving tourist industry, many U.S. citizens visit this collection of islands on vacation. The Bahamas has continued to rise in GDP and other metrics of quality of life for its citizens due to its successful tourism industry and offshore financing industry. Despite the growth that The Bahamas continues to present, there have been some concerning trends that have threatened this. Specifically, there have been problems and uncontrollable circumstances that the children have had to face. These problems affect the country and its future. Amongst these struggles, external catastrophes hit many of the most vulnerable children hardest, exacerbating child poverty in The Bahamas. This includes Hurricane Dorian in 2018 and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Poverty Rates

The Bahamas’ poverty rate is comparable to some of its Caribbean neighbors. Studies found that 12.5% of the population is living under the poverty line with under $5,000 a year. Many of these households support children. Additionally, children under the age of 14 represent the group with the highest poverty rate in the country.

Without access to resources and basic needs, these children are likely to have trouble maturing. The lack of food, sleep and time for a developing child who poverty affects will directly affect their performance in academics, recreation, social interactions and other aspects of their life.

Blocks in Education

As The Bahamas has grown its economy and infrastructure its education systems have also grown to match. However, there has been an alarming disparity in the quality and access to education. The literacy rate in people over the age of 15 decreased from 98% in 1995 to 93% in 2020. Many have largely attributed this trend to the difference in the quality of education between private and public schools.

Public state-run schools have a graduation rate of 44% for boys and 51% for girls while the graduation rate is 87.6% for those in private institutions. The reason for this variance is the lack of funding and resources for teaching materials, school supplies, and internet access for those in public schools.

Home Situations

The Bahamas has a very low dual household dynamic. More than 50% of all children in The Bahamas are born out of wedlock and a single parent often raises them. This is a holdover from times when large families lived together, so children did not feel the absence of a parent so harshly. However, the commonality of this has faded.

Children that single parents raise, especially those suffering from poverty, have more developmental and material disadvantages in life. The education challenges and dropout rates among the youth of The Bahamas reflect this issue.

Children are the Future of The Bahamas

Help from NGOs and other countries has been stagnant because of the  COVID-19 pandemic and lack of awareness. Project Hope is an organization that has a consistent presence in The Bahamas, although there are no large organizations. However, Project Hope’s work should receive commendation and undergo replication because they have been instrumental in shedding light on the challenges that people in The Bahamas face.

Project Hope is an NGO that focuses primarily on health care needs and services. They have been bringing aid, resources and expertise to The Bahamas. Beginning after Hurricane Dorian, Project Hope has focused on providing health care services for children, including those who experience child poverty in The Bahamas. This helps the children to further their education.

The Bahamas has been in a vicious cycle of struggling children becoming struggling adults. Rather than beautiful beaches or offshore tax evasion, children are at once the most vulnerable and most valuable resource that The Bahamas has.

John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr