Qualitative Accounts of Changes to School-aged Children’s Diets due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Rural, Central, Kenya, 2020

Shapiro, Laura and Jarman, Megan and Farrow, Claire and Wadende, Pamela and Zeidler, Henriette and Koteng, Grace and Mooya, Haatembo and Simatende, Barnabas and Matthews, Danielle and Clarke, Rebecca (2022). Qualitative Accounts of Changes to School-aged Children’s Diets due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Rural, Central, Kenya, 2020. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-855241

We develop a new way to address educational disadvantage in rural Africa, through a collaboration between academics from Kenya, Zambia and the UK, teachers, families and community groups. The connection between home and school is key to sustainable education: (i) parents must recognise the school's priorities if they are to support their child's continuing education, (ii) teachers need to understand their pupils' home environment so they can build on positive home experiences and (iii) schools must build on children's existing skills and knowledge and fit with their goal of a successful life in their community. There is currently a serious disconnect between home and school in Africa and this is exacerbated in rural Kenya and Zambia by the predominance of non-local teachers who often don't speak pupils' native languages. We aim to connect home and school learning by targeting Early Childhood Education and Development programmes (ECDE; age 4 - 6). Unlike primary and secondary schools, ECDE centres recruit teachers from the local community. The relationship between parents and teachers is closest in ECDE settings, providing a crucial opportunity to build bridges between home and school. It is also a critical opportunity for mitigating early disadvantages for girls and empowering females in leadership roles since ECDE teachers are predominantly female. We prioritise language and nutrition as fundamental to all later learning, and aim to (i) identify positive practices in the home that benefit early language development and nutrition and (ii) to work together with ECDE teachers as researchers to empower them to develop teacher and parent networks to share best practice in school and at home. We target mealtimes for our observations of behaviour and language since they are a particularly rich time for social interaction, and the focus on eating gives an authentic setting for natural communication. Our objectives are (i) to measure home and school mealtime behaviour and language to identify practices that are most crucial for raising the quality of language children are exposed to (e.g., whether adults and children sit together; whether they have a television) (ii) to observe eating behaviours in the home, assess the extent to which girls' eat less food, or less nutritious foods, and identify practices that raise levels of female nutrition (e.g., girls may eat more if they share food as a family, rather than when girls and women eat separately) (iii) to work together with our teacher-researchers and community advisors to co-develop a teacher-network and parent outreach programme, based on evidence from objectives 1 and 2. The aim is to raise awareness and share practices that increase the quality of language children are exposed to at home and in school and raise levels of female nutrition, motivated by evidence of gender inequalities. Objective 3 will be achieved firstly by working together to identify key messages that are culturally appropriate and achievable (e.g., switch the TV off before eating at home; encourage teachers to sit together with pupils when eating in ECDE centres). Second, by working together in practitioner networks, guidance will be developed to inform a parent outreach programme to be shared with well-established groups in the community. The network will also provide a platform for teachers to conduct their own research, share research findings and discuss best practice. Importantly, it will provide a vital link to teachers in primary and secondary education, to develop continuity in children's education. Finally, the evidence base we provide through objectives 1 and 2, and the networks created in objective 3 provide a powerful basis for contributing to the development of the new ECDE curriculum in Kenya and to lobby for similar priorities in Zambia.

Data description (abstract)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to food security in many countries, including Kenya. However, the impact of this on food provision to children at an individual level is unknown. This small study aimed to provide a qualitative snapshot of the diets of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. During completion of 24-h food recalls, with 15 families with children aged 5–8 years, caregivers were asked about changes they had made to foods given to their children due to the pandemic. Food recalls were analysed to assess nutrient intakes. Qualitative comments were thematically analysed. Most of the families reported making some changes to foods they provided to their children due to COVID-19. Reasons for these changes fell into three themes, inability to access foods (both due to formal restriction of movements and fear of leaving the house), poorer availability of foods, and financial constraints (both decreases in income and increases in food prices). The COVID-19 pandemic has affected some foods parents in rural Kenya can provide to their children.

Data creators:
Creator Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Shapiro Laura Aston University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3276-457X
Jarman Megan Aston University
Farrow Claire Aston University
Wadende Pamela Kisii University
Zeidler Henriette Aston University
Koteng Grace Kisii University
Mooya Haatembo University of Zambia
Simatende Barnabas University of Zambia
Matthews Danielle University of Sheffield
Clarke Rebecca Aston University
Sponsors: ESRC
Grant reference: ES/T004959/1
Topic classification: Health
Society and culture
Project title: A school closer to home: using mealtimes to foster language development, improve girls' nutrition and align home and school in rural Kenya and Zambia
Grant holders: Laura Shapiro, Wadende Pamela, Farrow Claire, Matthews Danielle, Mooya Haatembo, Koteng' Grace Anyango
Project dates:
1 February 202031 January 2023
Date published: 13 Jul 2022 14:06
Last modified: 13 Jul 2022 14:07

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