Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO residents have resorted to finding alternative foods to boost their diets as prices of basic commodities continue to increase beyond their reach.

Profiteering businesses are taking advantage of Covid-19 to increase prices of basic commodities. In the past people could cross to either South Africa or Botswana to buy groceries but the borders are closed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Chronicle toured suburbs around the city and spoke to residents who revealed that they were supplementing their diet with food from their fields as opposed to buying from shops.

Some residents from Entumbane suburb said they were no longer buying maize meal from shops but were buying maize in bulk and taking it to grinding mills, which they said was cheaper.

Ms Senzeni Dube from Entumbane suburb said she saves up to $200 a month from buying maize and taking it to grinding mills instead of buying mealie-meal from the shops.

“Things are now expensive. Food in particular is so expensive. You can’t buy mealie-meal from the shops. So, we now buy maize which is cheaper in rands and we take it to grinding mills. It is cheaper and we are told is good for our health,” said Ms Dube.

Another Bulawayo resident from Nketa 9 suburb, Mrs Esther Moyo said she had replaced bread with sweet potatoes which she said were cheaper and lasted longer.

“If I buy a bucket of sweet potatoes for 150 or 200 rands, it can last me almost three weeks and I can feed my family of six. As for bread, I will need two loaves each day, and I cannot afford that. The children do not like sweet potatoes so I try to spice them up by making fritters, boiling them, cutting them into rings and then glazing them with oil and roasting them in the oven like we do when we make roast potatoes. That dish is very popular with my kids, but having them eat ordinary sweet potatoes is a struggle,” said Mrs Moyo.

Mrs Edina Nkala from Magwegwe suburb said she had introduced chunks to her family’s diet, which she said had at first been resisted by family members but after sometime they warmed up to the new relish.

She said she was also buying and cooking a lot of melons which are in season, and was making umxhanxa, (maize and melon soup) for family lunches or for eating in between meals.

“We now eat more chunks and beans. This is where we get our protein. Meat is now way too expensive at the shops, however once in a while we buy a goat. It is also cheaper compared to buying beef from the shops. Beans are actually nice and you can eat them with isitshwala, you can eat with bread or rice or mix with maize and make a sort of inkobe/ mutakura variation,” she said.

Mr Dennis Ndlovu from Nkulumane 11 suburb said due to the escalating prices of basic commodities he could no longer afford to buy basic necessities and fruits for his grandchildren. He said his situation was worsened by the closure of fresh produce markets as part of measures to contain Covid-19. Some families said due to the high cost of living they could no longer afford to have three meals a day as they frantically tried to stretch their food supplies.

Mrs Siphelile Chagweta from Nkulumane suburb said she struggles to even provide one meal per day for her family as she cannot continue with her vending work due to Covid-19.

She said she is also nursing a sick child on a special diet, which worsened her condition.

“Things are hard and the Covid-19 situation is making it worse. We can no longer sell from the shopping centres and earn something to buy food for our families I have a toddler with osteogenesis impefecta (brittle bones). She needs a diet with a lot of calcium, iron and protein to help her condition. But because things are so hard, I can only feed her on porridge, which is mostly starch, most of the time,” she said.

A food science lecturer at a local university who declined to be identified said it was important for people, especially children in their formative years to eat a balanced diet for the development of the body and the brain.

She said a non-balanced diet could result in kwashiorkor or stunted growth in children while adults could also suffer from malnutrition.

Government’s multi-sectoral approach to development is however paying dividends with stunted growth levels dropping by five percent in the past five years, the Food and Nutrition Council (FNC) said early this [email protected]_tshuma