Many Kenyans are currently caught in the grip of heightened food prices engendered by the currently market inflations that have steadily been escalating. Kenyans have protested on social media about the high cost of living using the #LowerFoodPrices in vain. They criticize the government for failing to stem the rise in the prices of everyday items. In March, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reported a 9.2% food inflation rate, which is predicted to increase further with the increase in fuel cost. This means a greater majority of Kenyans are and will be unable to put food on the table.
In 2021 Kenya was ranked 87/116 qualifying countries on the 2021 Global Hunger Index. In the same year, 2.6 million Kenyans were said to be in a food insecurity crisis. This is termed a ‘serious’ food and nutrition insecurity situation. Food and nutrition security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. In the whole country, prices of basic food items like milk, bread, sugar, and maize flour have spiked sharply in recent months, making it difficult for Kenyans to afford the recommended three meals per day. While these frustrations on social media are collective, the financial squeeze is more painful on a personal level.
Those hit hardest by these increased costs are the vulnerable. The pressure to shift to cheaper, sugary, salty and fatty food alternatives in order to have enough to eat may be enormous. Those who need to manage their diets to control diabetes, heart conditions and so on may face the prospect of worsening health. If, as expected, these food price rises become the ‘new normal’, even fit, healthy people would risk developing chronic disease as a result. Moreover, there can be poor educational attainment, poor mental health and social isolation, or increased mortality rates. Both short-term and long-term policies that have been enacted by the government should be implemented. Some households might require emergency food assistance by the government and donors, food subsidies, cash transfers, food for work and school feeding programs, adjustment of trade and tax measures, enhancement of agricultural production by providing agricultural input subsidies etcetera. At a household level, families need to budget, cut on junks, enrich foods and preserve the leftovers, and invest in kitchen gardening.