Dietary Diversity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Disparities, Challenges, and Mitigation Measures
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the Eastern Mediterranean Region's food system's fragility posing severe challenges to maintaining healthy sustainable lifestyle. The aim of this cross-sectional study (N = 13,527 household's family members, mean age: 30.3 ±11.6, 80% women) is to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food consumption patterns and household's dietary diversity in 10 Eastern Mediterranean countries. A food frequency questionnaire was used to investigate the consumption patterns along with the calculation of the Food Consumption Score (FCS), a proxy indicator of dietary diversity. Data collected on cooking attitudes, shopping and food stock explore the community mitigation measures. In the overall population, before and during the pandemic, most food groups were consumed less or equal to 4 times per week. As evident from our findings and considering that the pandemic may be better, but it's not over, small to moderate changes in food consumption patterns in relatively short time periods can become permanent and lead to substantial poor dietary diversity over time. While it is a priority to mitigate the immediate impact, one area of great concern is the long-term effects of this pandemic on dietary patterns and dietary diversity in Eastern Mediterranean households. To conclude, the COVID-19 crisis revealed the region's unpreparedness to deal with a pandemic. While the aggressive containment strategy was essential for most countries to help prevent the spread, it came at a high nutritional cost, driving poor dietary diversity.