The fast food industry is on the rebound in Zimbabwe, what with the return of American giant Kentucky Fried Chicken commonly known simply as KFC.
The resilient Innscor food chain including Chicken Inn, Nando’s etc had held the fort joined a few years ago by fast-growing Chicken Slice franchise. In between these popular outlets lies a plethora of other fast and not-so-fast food outlets dishing out unhealthy food on a daily basis.
But fast food comes with huge problems and the country is beginning to see obese children walking the streets and new cancers, unheard of only a few years ago, are reported almost on daily basis.
Zimbabwean farmers should begin to exploit the niche created by the need to replace junk food with organically grown food alternatives.
The tendency among people shopping in urban centres to eat fattening foods such as ice cream, sweets and fast food such as French fries is great. This is leading to the growth in cases of obesity especially among children and women.
In developed countries people are running away from eating these foods. Instead they are turning to healthy organically grown food snacks.
The Netherlands has shown the way.
The Netherlands’s horticultural industry has continued to grow in leaps and bounds making the country the second biggest exporter of horticultural produce after the United States.
Its secret lies in developing new business models with distinctive products. One of its success stories is its fight against the consumption of fast food by producing organically-grown products such as tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers that can be consumed as snacks.
But why has fast food become the in-thing?
“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking,” according to US business news channel CNBC, American fast food chain McDonald’s wrote on its McResource Line website recently.
But, the channel continues to quote the website, “While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”
Writing in 2000 Kevin Vigilante for health living website Alive said:
“Along with smoking, substance abuse and inactivity, fast food presents one of the greatest public-interest health threats to Americans today. Fast food is almost universally dangerous and should probably carry a warning from the surgeon general. It contains meat-based carcinogens, is high in total calories and saturated fat and is a principal source of trans fat.
“Not only is the food dangerous, but it promotes a lifestyle and culture that are also dangerous. Our lives are fast, frenetic and commercial. Food should be our sanctuary from the madness, not part of it.”
But what is the rule of thumb as far as food is concerned?
“In general, avoiding items that are deep fried are your best bet . . . limit the extras such as cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise. Eat at places that offer a variety of salads, soups and vegetables to maintain your best health,” says the McResource website.
Some countries, such as The Netherlands, have come up with an alternative to fast food and it lies in horticulture.
Instead of eating junk food as they stroll in the urban centres, the Dutch now prefer organically grown foods such as sweet peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Not only are these better alternatives to the usual junk food they have also contributed immensely to national income.
As the fad to move away from fast food grows around the world the growing of these innovative products have brought big earning to farmers.
Zimbabwe can copy this new business model. Instead of only growing traditional tomatoes and peppers, farmers can migrate to these simple-to-grow products which are high yielding and don’t require a lot of land. They are easy to grow in small greenhouses and also easy to market internally and in countries moving away from fast foods towards health eating.