Children are starving in South Africa

A preventable scourge with improved farm-to-fork food surplus recovery interventions.
More than a third of all food produced in South Africa ends up in landfills – although most of this food is still edible and nutritious. Despite this abundance of food, we have an acute prevalence of widespread hunger and food insecurity, devastating inequalities, rising unemployment, staggering food prices and the general cost of living, making it almost impossible for poor to obtain basic foodstuffs. for themselves and their families. Surviving and not knowing where their next meal will come from is a daily struggle for around 30 million people, causing severe depression and anxiety.

The United Nations has warned that the world is in a global food crisis and Africa is the most affected. South Africa has the highest incidence of child malnutrition in the world and reports of deaths from malnutrition and starvation are steadily increasing in both urban and rural communities across the country.

On March 29, 2022, the Daily Maverick published an article on 14 children under the age of five who have died of starvation in the last 15 months at Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, and hundreds more are receiving treatment for severe acute malnutrition. This devastating scourge can be prevented through better management of the recovery of surplus food from farm to fork.

Over 10 million tonnes of food are lost or wasted every year, due to inefficiencies along the food value chain, costing our economy over R61 billion a year. Most of this food loss and waste occurs on farms, during post-harvest handling and storage, and during food manufacturing. These good quality foods, if intercepted in time, can be used to address large-scale food insecurity and prevent unnecessary death and disease.

Food scarcity has reached crisis proportions across South Africa, and the dark side of hunger is becoming more visible due to the devastating effects of the pandemic, as vulnerable households struggle daily to secure enough food for a whole month. These include people who depend on casual work on a daily basis, discouraged job seekers, people who are not economically active due to health problems and people who depend solely on social benefits for survival.

As generational poverty, unemployment, inequality, and supply chain weaknesses require radical systems change, we must not overlook the critical role that nonprofit organizations (NPOs) can play in tackling these food losses and waste, prevent malnutrition and hunger, while saving the environment.

During the past financial year, thanks to the generous support of many food and financial donors, FoodForward SA was able to distribute 12,015 tonnes of good quality surplus food from the supply chain (farmers, food manufacturers, retailers , etc.) to a network of 2,225 registered beneficiary organizations that reach more than 875,725 vulnerable people daily. This means a total of 48 million meals were provided, at a cost per meal of just R0.68. Moreover, more than 90% of these foods were nutritious. And, for every ton of food recovered, four tons of greenhouse gas emissions are saved.

The poor have very limited resources, and when they have money to buy food, they spend it on cheap bulk foods that go further, but lack the nutrition they need to promote a good health.

FoodForward SA’s mission-driven food bank ecosystem is a critical lever for accelerating growth and maximizing social returns in underserved communities. The food bank model is a valuable contributor to transforming communities at the local level and offers a cost-effective pathway to address the structural causes of poverty.

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