Covid 19: Nigerian Government Must Develop Nutrition Policy - Azeezat Oluwakemi Sule

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As the countries of the world are under the weight of coronavirus, it is my humble opinion that one of the ways we can fight this virus in Nigeria and have a healthy nation is for us to have a nutrition policy.

Since the virus struck, more and more people are getting to understand the importance of healthy eating/living and the impact on our health. However, this cannot just stop there; we need to look at ways to make entrench it in our system.

Apart from the individual advantage, there is a huge benefit to the country at larger when its citizens are healthy; ranging from economic boost, healthy and able citizens increase workforce, reduced expenses on health infrastructures, an attraction for external investors, to mention just a few. Having said this, there is a need for the Nigerian government to ensure healthy eating among the people and there are many ways to look at it, bearing in mind that the rural areas are different from the urban. These may be categorized since they are interrelated, but I will mention a few in this piece.

Now, let’s examine how the Nigerian government can ensure healthy eating among Nigerians:

Firstly, nutrition should be placed at the forefront of public health policies and programs. Why? There is no life without food, there is no good life without good food, and there is no good country without good people. How does a country survive to the international standard without taking care of its people in the international standard? As you lay your bed, so you lie on it.

Next is education. There should be a review of our education policy, syllabus, and curriculum to incorporate nutrition in an informative and practical way right from pre-school to tertiary institutions. This is when every Nigerian that passes through the education system is already aware of the importance of food and good nutrition/healthy eating and we can as well produce more graduates in this niche. Food education can also include affordable food demonstration and preparation classes at various locations such as trade schools, technical schools, health facilities, places of worship and community centers. This will already make it easy for people to access full services that will help them kick-start their own journeys.

Also, there should be a strong policy development. Since our food choices are determined by a combination of psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, policies may be an important way to put healthy eating to the limelight in the country. Such policies will support interventions that limit hazardous exposures of people to environmental factors that can lead to negative health outcomes. Such policies will support issues that have been seen to spur the consumption of some foods over another, such as giving economic incentives like reduced tax on healthy foods and increased tax on junk foods and sodas.

Marketing limits can also be placed on some foods as most foods being advertised now are basically the multi processed foods and sugar, other policies to limit food marketing to children include curbing advertising and marketing of less healthful foods and beverages in schools and removing toys in children’s fast-food meals, encouraging exercises and healthy eating. Policies will also encourage community spaces marked for food events like food demonstrations and cooking classes, competitions, etc.

Also, healthy living can be promoted in the country with the establishment of food banks/pantries. In developed countries, food banks are a way the government supports their people with food supplies on routine basis after the individual or families have met the criteria to receive such foods. Having food banks where only healthy foods are being distributed will be a great way to keep people away from hunger and also keep them healthy.

Also, when such is being supported by the government, the people see it that those foods are the best to eat and when they can afford it, they do not buy anything other than these groups of food.

In addition, we must truly support agriculture. There have been cases where farmers complained of not having enough funds for production/harvesting/manpower etc. Supporting farmers with soft loans, logistics, workforce, good road, organic fertilizers etc., can help them produce more healthy food choices to help people eat healthy without breaking the bank. Most organic foods we eat right now are imported, and I bet they are not cheap.

Lastly, there should be home gardens/urban agriculture support. When the government has supported education and information, and every citizen knows already that by growing your own food in your garden, you are the one to decide what goes on your plants and into your soil, allowing you to reduce the number of harmful chemicals polluting our environment and waterways. Then programs to promote and encourage people to grow their foods can work well, organically growing your own food is sustainable and nourishes your soil by using safe and natural fertilizers and products

Azeezat Oluwakemi Sule is an integrative nutrition and wellness coach

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