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World Food Day: How Is South Africa Handling Food Security?

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Every year on the 16th of October, World Food Day is observed globally. This year, the issue of food security is even bigger, with an estimated additional 83 million people affected by hunger, with a total of 690 million people living in hunger worldwide. 

Closer to home, we see that the statistics do not provide any relief. The grueling pandemic took its toll on employment, and in turn the state of food accessibility countrywide. As we find our way through the recovery process of the last few months, this serves as a good time to reflect on South Africa and its citizens’ accessibility to food. 

Despite food parcels and other forms of relief being administered during the early stages of lockdown, many households were still suffering greatly to keep food on the table. The recently released SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa evidenced the extent of food insecurity among low-income workers and vulnerable people living in South Africa. The report showed that 64% of respondents surveyed had been forced to reduce spending on food, as a result of the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown. The data also showed that 93% of respondents were the main breadwinner in a home with children.

Commenting on the findings, SweepSouth co-founder and CEO, Dr Aisha Pandor said, “The results of this year’s survey are particularly pertinent, given the impact of the global pandemic and the impact on food security and nutrition among one of the most vulnerable sections of the labour force and their dependants. A lack of nutrition is linked to numerous underlying health issues in children that can last a lifetime and can trigger mental health problems in adults.

“Domestic workers are frequently the sole providers for their immediate and extended families, yet few were able to eke out a sufficient wage to support themselves and make ends meet,” Pandor said. 

Speaking further to the importance of nutrition in the food people consume, especially children, there is light at the end of the tunnel for families who often struggle to access the quality of food linked to an overall healthy lifestyle. Budding local retailer, Yebo Fresh, has made it their mission to provide all people with access to good quality, fresh food, no matter where they live. This was especially prevalent during the height of lockdown, where their collaborations with NGOs allowed them to deliver over 80 000 food parcels and hundreds of bulk deliveries to soup and community kitchens to alleviate hunger and food scarcity brought on by the pandemic.

Delivering these quality goods to townships like Khayelitsha, Imizamo Yethu and Gugulethu, where the option of grocery delivery was previously hardly available, is making a tangible difference in the lives of their customers. The items they select to sell on their platform are not only those that are most in demand by customers, but food with impressive nutritional value. 

“Food parcels tend to be heavy on carbohydrates and oils as these are practical and cheap ways to provide calories to hungry people. While maize meal, flour and oil are all necessary components, we were also able to include products that are often left out of food parcels such as milk. We offer the option to replace cake flour with a stone ground version with higher nutritional value, and for some NGOs, we were able to deliver bags of fruit and veg alongside the dry goods’’, says Catherine Waldemar Brown, Head of Product at Yebo Fresh. 

There is also more hope on a global scale, with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) just being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace. As part of the recognition for their efforts, the committee has awarded this prize to the WFP to help  “turn the eyes of the world to the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger”. In the campaign to get to ‘Zero Hunger’, the agency has identified that food insecurity affected 135 million people in 55 countries in 2019, proving there is much work to be done to improve food security worldwide. 

In addition to the Nobel Prize judges and retailers like Yebo Fresh acknowledging the importance of access to good food, reward programmes like MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet have set themselves up to allow those with the means to to make a difference in others’ lives through the provision of food to those in need. Members of the programme can sign up to the  MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet community loyalty programme and support one of the programme’s food security causes. Every time a member uses their card when they shop at any of the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet retail partner stores, a donation is made on the member’s behalf – at no cost to the member. Funds raised go towards food security, to help fight the battle against hunger in South Africa. Sign up for free at myschool.co.za or download the App. Retail partners include Woolworths, Loot.co.za, Bidvest Waltons, Builders and more.

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