Half of the country struggles with hunger: Call for more action to counter food insecurity

The research was commissioned by Shoprite, which has called for intensified efforts to reduce hunger.
Image: 123RF

In two years‚ nearly half of South Africa’s population will be food insecure‚ with 48.96% of the population potentially not having enough to eat.

This is according to World Data Lab modelling‚ which also states 21.18% of children will have stunted cognitive and physical development due to malnutrition. This‚ in turn‚ leads to stunted early childhood development‚ poor cognition and learning which leads to ongoing cycles of poverty.

The research was commissioned by Shoprite‚ which has called for intensified efforts to reduce hunger.

Provincially‚ the Food Index shows Limpopo will suffer the worst food insecurity with 54% of the population not sure where their next meal will come from.

Though in the Western Cape and Gauteng the numbers will be better‚ they are still high at 41% and 47% respectively.

In the Western Cape 13% of food insecure people will be in rural areas and 87% in urban centres. By contrast 59% of potentially hungry people in the Eastern Cape will reside in rural areas.

Despite the grim numbers‚ the incidence of people escaping food insecurity is improving. In 2020 52% of South Africa was food insecure. The projections for 2025 show this declining to just under 49%.

The most vulnerable are females‚ those living in rural areas‚ those without high school certificates‚ and those over the age of 45‚ a study in the Journal of Health Policy last October found.

Sanjeev Raghubir‚ head of sustainability and CSI at the Shoprite Group‚ said: “The numbers in the Food Index are unacceptably high and the trickle of people escaping food insecurity too low.

“We must urgently escalate the rate of people escaping food insecurity. Doing so will improve not only their prospects but that of the country.

“That’s why we are intensifying our efforts to reduce hunger‚ a crisis that demands a collaborative effort from agriculture‚ manufacturers‚ retailers‚ government‚ NGOs and anyone who has the capacity to #ActForChange. Tackling hunger isn’t just a decent thing to do‚ it helps secure our future.”

There are two immediate‚ tangible steps the government can take to reduce food insecurity‚ according to the research report. One would be to exempt food retailers from the Road Accident Fund levy on diesel used for generators‚ and the other is to consider zero VAT on certain key commodities to prioritise relief to the vulnerable.

Individuals‚ Raghubir said‚ could help by contributing to existing programmes such as the Act For Change Fund at any Shoprite‚ Checkers or Usave supermarket. The donations are distributed to communities though vetted beneficiary organisations including Rise Against Hunger‚ Meals on Wheels and Operation Hunger.

Other ways to help could include starting or contributing to a food garden or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

“Cumulatively even seemingly small interventions can make a significant difference‚” Raghubir said.

The group said it is playing its part by so far investing R50m in 215 food gardens here and seven in other African countries‚ donating R226m worth of surplus food to community partners equating to 67-million meals and supporting 114 early childhood development centres feeding 7‚287 children.

To ensure cash-strapped consumers can buy food‚ Shoprite introduced a range of R5 deli meals in 2017. In addition‚ its 600g in-house bakery bread has been selling for R5 since April 2016. A million loaves of the R5 bread are subsidised each week‚ Raghubir said.

He appealed to all sectors in South Africa to explore every feasible option to end hunger by 2030 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


Source: ARENA Holdings.

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