Trainee nurses' testimonies show COVID food impact

Personal testimonies by trainee nurses at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) show the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on Samoan families’ consumption habits as well as food security.

An article titled “Capturing the Experiences of Samoa: The Changing Food Environment and Food Security in Samoa during the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which was uploaded to the online journal Wiley Online Library on 16 December 2020, included the personal testimonies of the N.U.S. Bachelor of Nursing Year 3 students.

The students revealed the impact of the COVID-19 inspired state of emergency (SOE) and the lockdown that followed on their access to sufficient food supply in the local supermarkets as well as the need for them to change their diet due to the unavailability of certain foods from the shops.

Nursing student Tagialofa Emiliata said she usually bought a bag of rice for a month and 10 kg of chicken for two weeks. 

However, the four-month lockdown beginning in March this year led to a shortage of rice and chicken in all supermarkets, leading to businesses in July rationing the quantity of chicken and rice per person.

“Restrictions were also in place in terms of how many packets each person could purchase. Shortages of these two products affected my family in the last few months of the lockdown,” said the student. “The increase in price for these two products has been particularly stressful for my family, who rely on my student allowances as their source of income.”

For students Priscilla Asem and Junior Levi, the life of 70-year-old Sefo Aku and 55-year-old Jessie Stehlin, who ran a fruit and vegetable stall in front of their home for 25 years and the transition that a man from Tufulele did, in order to move his family from consuming processed food to local produce were their testimonies.

They said the couple did not have a history of hypertension and diabetes and did their gardening for two hours every day and only ate fresh fruits and vegetables.

And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they noticed an increasing number of families also moving to roadside sales of their fruits and vegetables, thereby increasing competition between to result in the drop of prices. 

“During this pandemic of COVID‐19, Mr. Sefo and Mrs. Jessie have seen an increasing number of families selling their vegetables and fruits at the market and in front of their house beside the roads,” they said.

“The competition in marketing between farmers has increased, so they decided to sell their vegetables and fruits cheaper so these could be more affordable to people. 

“In the few past months when Samoa was in lockdown, the number of customers has decreased but they still manage to get an income in a day.”

A number of students also spoke of adaptation and resilience and singled out N.U.S. agriculture student Jin Fatu, who lived in a family of nine people.

They said prior to the lockdown, the family did not have a garden but since the closure of all Government and businesses from March this year, Mr Fatu made a garden to support his family and planted cabbage, taro, bananas and papaya. 

“Everything he planted in his gardens was to support his family with their daily meals. When I arrived at his home, Mr Fatu had just harvested one basket of cabbages from the garden in front of his house,” the nursing students said. “Mr Fatu mentioned that his family has enough so they have started to sell some garden produce and also share it with five families near them. 

“They have sold baskets of cabbages three times since they need the money for their electricity and water bills, and to pay the school fees of the children in the family. 

“Mr. Fatu mentioned that in the beginning it was hard since it was a new routine for him. But seeing the fruits of his garden and how they support his family motivates him to plant more.”

The personal testimonies on adaptation and resilience were submitted by Tamala Iosua, Agalelei Ioane, Valu Seupoai, Mika Eteuati, Pesi Solipo and Tautane Nuu.

The authors of the online journal paper include Tagialofa Emiliata, Priscilla Asem, Junior Levi, Tamala Iosua, Agalelei Ioane, Valu Seupoai, Mika Eteuati, Pesi Solipo, Tuatane Nuu and Ramona Boodoosingh.

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