Food security is the measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, food security is defined as meaning 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.
Food insecurity is the state of not having reliable access to sufficient food and is one of the leading causes of chronic hunger in Africa.
Although South Africa experienced food insecurity even before the COVID-19 lockdown — 11% of South Africans (about 6.5 million people) suffered from hunger — this increased significantly over the last year as a result of measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. During hard levels of lockdown, the Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Crams), published in July 2020, found that 47% of adults surveyed, reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April 2020. Between May and June, 21% said that someone in the household went hungry in the previous 7 days and 15% that a child went hungry in the previous week.
Access to sufficient food is crucial for pregnant women and growing children. An estimated 27% of children under the age of 5 in South Africa are stunted. This means that they experienced a lack of nutrients in the womb that can result in lifelong challenges.
Children who are stunted are more likely to face learning difficulties. They’re also highly likely to experience health issues in their adulthood, including diabetes and obesity.
In addition to hard lockdowns, South African social grants are not sufficient to sustain households. This leaves many of our population reliant on social relief offered by non-governmental organisations (nonprofits / NGOs / NPOs).
“In Witzenberg we’ve had queues of up to 250 people at our food kitchen”
“Everything went more ‘deurmekaar’ with lockdown,” says Naomi Betana of the Witzenberg Justice Coalition, a social movement that works in the rural farming areas just north of Paarl in the Western Cape. “More and more poor families didn’t have access to food. Even farmworkers – who create the food – didn’t have access.”
Many people lost their jobs and were left with no money to buy food. Others were stranded with no transport to supermarkets.
“It’s been tough,” Betana says. “We’ve had queues of 200 to 250 people at our food kitchen. Mostly children and mothers. Hardship increased a lot during this time.”