In Malawi, malnutrition among school-aged children as indicated by 30% stunting,
18% underweight and 3% wasting levels is a problem that is being addressed through
school feeding programs. The nutritional status of school going children is dependent
on household food security, education level of the parents, food preference of the
parents and food preparation constraints. These factors affect food consumption
patterns of children which is one of the determining factors of nutritional status. A
study was, therefore, conducted to explore the food consumption patterns and diet
adequacy for school going children aged 7-9 years in Kalira EPA of Ntchisi district in
Malawi. Seventy eight school children whose parents were involved in bambara
groundnut ( Vigna unguiculata
) farming were recruited for the study. Demographic
information and data on food consumption pattern and intake during postharvest and
pre-planting periods was collected using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire
included an interactive 24-hour dietary recall and dietary diversity score (DDS) tools.
The children came from mainly male-headed households (91%) with 6 ± 2 members.
The household heads had attained upper primary education and their main (89.7%)
occupation was farming. The school-age children were consuming two carbohydrate
based meals per day accompanied with leafy vegetables (34.1%) or stewed pulses
(a stiff porridge made from maize flour) and thin maize flour porridge
were the dominant carbohydrate sources in the diet. Only 12% of the children reported
consuming animal source foods. Most of the school children were eating three times
or less in a day with lunch and supper as the major meals. The diet of the school
children did not meet the recommended dietary allowance for energy (69%), fat (21%),
vitamin A (24%), iron (65%) and calcium (28%). However, the diet was providing
adequate protein intake for the children. Snacks in the form of roasted sweet potatoes
or maize and bananas were provided to 26.1% of the school children when going to
school, while only 28.4% were provided with breakfast before going to school.
Breakfast consisted of black tea or porridge made from whole maize flour. Diets of
the majority (68%) of the school going had minimum diversity according to the
diversity score. The dietary pattern for the school children was the same during the
postharvest and pre-planting period.