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Food Justice

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Food waste prevention can be instrumental in stemming South Africa’s hunger crisis

Food waste prevention can be instrumental in stemming South Africa’s hunger crisis
A massive proportion food produced is wasted and lost through food systems in South Africa while millions of South Africans are in perpetual hunger. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

Millions of rands of food is wasted and lost through the food system while millions of South Africans are in perpetual hunger, Food banks such as Food Forward SA are trying to bridge the gap by collecting and distributing surplus food to those much in need.

South Africa generates about 10.2 million tonnes of food waste throughout the food supply chain annually. Food Forward South Africa (FFSA) tries to aid this by recovering quality edible surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributing it to community organisations that serve the impoverished.

One of those organisations is Bana Ba Noko, a non-profit in Tembisa which feeds over 600 children through its daycare centre and after-school feeding programme. Founder Sannah Makwaeba says it has been a struggle to create a well-balanced nutritious plate for the children but adds that her relationship with Food Forward SA has helped.

Bana Ba Noku daycare centre

Bana Ba Noku daycare centre plays a crucial role in providing nutrient rich food to young minds in Tembisa. (Photo: Supplied)

“I started in 2005 with 104 children with just the daycare, and I realised then that some parents can’t afford to pay, so we had these children we had to feed and no money from parents. I then decided to go door to door and each family has its big issues, so I realised then that I have to make a plan for the children to eat,” said Makwaeba.

In 2021, Maverick Citizen reported that as many as 10 million adults and nearly three million children experienced hunger in a week. As many as 2.5 million adults and 600,000 children were experiencing perpetual hunger, hunger every day or almost every day.

Makwaeba says she struggled to get consistent funding and donations for years and says it was a relief when she heard about a food bank in Johannesburg in 2009. 

Food Forward South Africa - food waste

Food Forward South Africa Mobile Rural Depot (MRD) programme has expanded significantly. The programme addresses food insecurity by providing access to healthy nutritious food in the most poverty-stricken rural towns and villages across South Africa.(Photo: Supplied)

“Food Forward SA helps us, we get food that can last three weeks, but because of the need it can be two weeks recently, we go fetch sweet potatoes, butternut, other veggies and 12.5-kilogram mealie meal packs monthly. That helps with giving children a diverse and nutritious place. The Department of Social Department checks our menus to see that we’re not always giving children pap, every day, we have to change offer different starches, and vegetables,” said Makwaiba

Makwaeba’s NPO is part of over 2,700 beneficiary organisations that reach 950,000 people around the country. Big chain stores such as Pick n Pay, Woolworths, and Bluff Butcheries are some of the donating partners. The food bank distributes more than 80% of the food recovered as nutritious food. 

“During the 2021/2022 financial year, we distributed 48 million meals. We achieved this at a cost per meal of only R0.68, due to the tremendous support from our donors, partners and volunteers”


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Managing Director of FFSA, Andy Du Plessis says there is an unwillingness from corporates to change food waste and food loss practices and says more people should be outraged considering the consequences to the environment and food security.

“Most people don’t realise just how much good quality edible surplus food is dumped and incinerated because of supply chain dynamics. Our view is that, as more people are aware, more pressure is placed on those responsible for dumping and pressuring them to act as a good corporate citizen,” said Du Plessis

“Too many food manufacturers are still unwilling to donate their surplus because of liability issues (should the food cause consumer harm). FFSA is drafting a petition to govt to adopt a food donations policy and provide liability protection for food donors,” Du Plessis added

Sannah Makwaeba

Sannah Makwaeba accepting food parcels from Food Forward SA in 2020. Bana Ba Noko have been recipients from the inception of Food Forward SA. (Photo: Supplied)

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘South Africa’s triple burden of disease — hunger and its hidden links to our mental health crisis 

FFSA has been instrumental in lobbying for legislation that encourages surplus food donations, as suggested in the legislation discussion paper at Southern Africa Foodlab. This includes: 

  • “Protecting farmers who allow gleaners to collect surplus food on the land post-harvesting for distribution to the needy.
  • Protecting good faith donors of surplus but wholesome food to non-government organisations for distribution to the needy; and
  • Protecting good faith donors of food that may be deficient in one form or another (e.g it has reached its use-by date) to a responsible NGO that can test that the donated food is still wholesome and fit for human consumption, and if necessary recondition it (where possible) before distribution to the needy.”

According to Council for Scientific Research estimates, global food production must increase by 70% by 2050 to meet the demand for food. Yet, globally, nearly one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted yearly.

Meanwhile, Makwaebe says she is challenged when she goes into affected areas such as the Duduza extension 8 informal settlement to assist and hand out the goods that have been donated. 

“We usually go in to drop off food for people who we’ve evaluated but during handover so many people need help in that area that when you show up with food that is not enough, they can even get aggressive. People are hungry and that is no joke,” says Makwaeba.

International Day of Awareness for Food Loss and Waste is commemorated annually on 29 September and although hunger, malnutrition, stunting in children and ill health are complex issues that need all hands on deck, reducing food waste is a great way to start feeding people much in need, Du Plessis says.

“Households can buy only what they need for a few days so food does not go off or expire. They should also buy locally so that the cost of transporting food is reduced and less goes to waste along the way. We would like people to support our campaign to ‘Repurpose the Surplus’ and sign our petition when it is released.” MC/DM

16 October is World Food Day and Maverick Citizen will be publishing articles throughout the week in commemoration of this which will culminate in a special newsletter on Friday 14 October.

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