Iqela Lokutya - The Masi food club to engage adolescents in food literacy and functional food promotion for vaginal health
Tamlyn S. Martin1, Felicity Hartley1, Marjanne Sennekal2, Marieke Theron2, Ramla Tanko1,3, Anna K. Coussens3,4, Smritee Dabee1,3, Dante Robbertze5, Katherine Gill5, Heather B. Jaspan3,6, Linda-Gail Bekker3,5, Virginia MacKenny7, Jo-Ann S. Passmore1,3,8,9
1Division of Medical Virology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; Human Nutrition, 2Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 3Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 4Walter and Eliza Hall Insstitute of Medical research, Parkville, Australia; 5Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 6Seattle Childrens Hospital, Seattle, USA; 7Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 8SAMRC-UCT Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 9National Health Laboratory Service, Cape Town, South Africa
In a setting of high HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence, adolescent and young people living in South Africa are at high risk for infectious diseases of the mucosa. Modifiable biomedical risk factors, including compromised mucosal barrier function resulting from vitamin D deficiency and microbial dysbiosis, likely play a key role. Functional foods, including probiotic-rich and fermented products, offer both mucosal and systemic health benefits and are increasingly being implemented for gastrointestinal disorders. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, we have started the “Iqela Lokutya” (isiXhosa - Food Club) to engage adolescents from socioeconomically-deprived communities around Cape Town in ecological and microbial principles of functional (probiotic-rich) food preparation, including relational aesthetics-based methodology. To date, more than 100 adolescent males and females from Masiphumelele have participated in “Iqela Lokutya”, run as a weekly program at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre. At baseline, we found that the majority of participants (57%) were vitamin D3 deficient (median ~47 nmol/L), with 8% being severely deficient (<30nmol/L), assessed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (to differentiate vitamin D2 and D3) in plasma. A food frequency questionnaire demonstrated that high sugar products accounted for the majority of food items were consumed per week in this age group followed by high-fat snacks. In contrast, foods rich in probiotics (such as yoghurts and other fermented dairy, traditional beer); and foods rich in vitamin D (including oily fish, fortified margarines, breakfast cereals, eggs, mushrooms, cream, cheese and mayonnaise, beef, yogurt or fermented dairy) were rarely consumed. We propose to use Food club as the spring board to introduce both nutritional, ecological, aesthetic, and microbiological aspects of food preparation to integrate science engagement (microbes and fermentation), entrepreneurship, to bridge the disciplines of medicine, engineering, art and science. The ultimate aim of this new initiative is to improve vitamin D status, food literacy and reproductive health in young women in South Africa.