Date and time: November 10th 12.00 – 12.45 CET.
Topic: Developing and Costing a Sustainable, Basic 7-Day Menu: A Tool for Policymakers and Educators to Help Ensure Adequacy in Dietary Intake
Presenter: Associate Professor Suzanne Piscopo, University of Malta
Caritas Malta is a not-for-profit organisation which strives to eradicate poverty and promote a decent quality of life for the most vulnerable. Ensuring an appropriate and accessible nutritious diet is part of its vision.
In 2019-20, Caritas Malta conducted a study to establish A Minimum Essential Budget for a Decent Living (MEBDL), covering basic necessities for low-income households. This included the Euro amount required for food. The goals were a) to offer evidence and a benchmark for food security policy development, and b) to produce a tool for counselling on food budgeting and meal planning.
Three 7-day menus were developed based on the Maltese national dietary guidelines, incorporating traditional dishes, whilst also taking into account contemporary lifestyles. The menus comprised 3 meals and 2 snacks daily and met the nutritional needs of three configurations of low-income households (2 adults and 2 children, 1 adult and 2 children, 2 elderly persons). Feedback on the suitability and appeal of the menus was obtained from representatives of these target households during one-to-one or focus group interviews.
The three 7-day menus were costed in November 2019 and July 2020 in a supermarket having moderate prices. Local, fresh, healthy ingredients were opted for as far as possible. The cost of food aid packages distributed to low-income households as part of national food security programmes was deducted from each of the three menu totals.
The monthly cost of the three menus were €593.45, €430.65 and €281.24 for the households comprising 2 adults and 2 children, 1 adult and 2 children, and 2 elderly persons, respectively. This food cost amounted to 41% to 51% of the total MEBDL. When the cost of eating out once a month was added (simple meal or snacks) this increased the cost to €633.45, €460.65 and €301.24 for the three different households. In conclusion, in low-income households, food accounts for a high share of total expenses. Home Economists can play a key role in helping to establish reference baskets and minimum income budgets, providing guidance to policymakers and advice to households. With respect to food, they can help to promote policies and strategies and offer practical education to maximise nutrient density in dietary intake based on income.
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