Maverick Citizen

Food Justice


You can’t eat political will to fight hunger but it’s vital to ensure everyone’s right to nutritious food

You can’t eat political will to fight hunger but it’s vital to ensure everyone’s right to nutritious food
A community food scheme assists 200 children and adults daily during lockdown in Lavender Hill on April 17, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Today is World Food Day. It finds millions of people in South Africa hungry and malnourished, children especially. Yet, South Africa produces enough food to feed our whole population. Sadly, political negligence and market failure are the major determinants of hunger. 

World Food day 2022, is a day designated by the United Nations to focus the world’s attention on the food system, food inequality and hunger. It’s meant to galvanise awareness and political commitment in order to advance food justice. This year World Food Day has as its theme Leave NO ONE Behind.

Yet in 2022 the evidence shows that not only is food inequality increasing in terms of access to essential food, but that for millions of people food quality and safety (access to sufficient nutrition and avoidance of food that is affordable but leads to disease) is deteriorating; the latter is due to failures of regulation of the food industry, unethical marketing and Big Food’s quest for profits before health.

In South Africa, SA Harvest, an organisation that redistributes food waste to millions of people, estimates up to 20 million people experience hunger every day. They are victims of multiple failures and unlawful conduct by both the state and the private sector, which deprive them of the right of everyone to “sufficient food and water” found in section 27 of the Constitution

In the coming months and years, food insecurity is likely to get worse because, as we have recently reported in Maverick Citizen, there is not yet a plan or a budget within government for improving and sustaining food security as the climate crisis intensifies and impacts on food production.

In South Africa, as elsewhere, hunger affects the most vulnerable and marginal. It is taking a terrible and lasting toll on children in particular. 

Globally, according to the international NGO World Vision (read their 10 world hunger facts here), “1 in 5 deaths among children under 5 is attributed to severe wasting, also known as severe acute malnutrition. More than 1 million children die each year from severe wasting.”

South Africa is not immune, as this report of children starving to death in the Eastern Cape attests.  

In this context, it seems anomalous to us that while South Africans celebrate Youth Day every June 16th in honour of the youth who rose up against Bantu education, we pay little attention to the wellbeing of the infants, children and youth of the born free generations. 

Politicians still express outrage about Bantu Education but feel no outrage about the mass nutritional deprivation. However, both have lasting impacts on dignity, opportunity and emotional, physical and intellectual development.

In 2022 we are still living with the legacy of Bantu Education. How long will we live the legacy of nutritional deprivation? 

Very long indeed.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

This World Food Day, Maverick Citizen is not going to prescribe policy or solutions, except to say that there are many viable solutions. A plethora of NGOs work on these on a daily basis (see some of the reports and profiles on our Food Justice subsite). They keep people alive. 

But they need to be taken to the scale, they need investment and most of all political will. 

At the end of the day, the hunger crisis in South Africa is a crisis of political neglect, not a crisis of famine, or of food shortages (yet). It is to do with state and market failure to ensure essential goods to all, a failure of politicians to do what the Constitution requires to regulate the market to ensure essential nutritious foodstuffs are affordable, and of all businesses to work with NGOs to build an alternative food production, distribution and consumption system.

Another food system is not only possible but is becoming increasingly necessary as the shadow of global heating looms over food production and as current food systems act as a major driver of CO2 emissions.   

This World Food Day, we hope that the articles we publish on #Food Justice will help concerned citizens to develop an informed understanding of food and why there isn’t enough of it for millions of people. We hope they will help you to take a stand on this most fundamental of human needs and make equal access to sufficient nutritious food a cornerstone of political struggles for a better South Africa. DM/MC



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