Sustainable collective solutions needed to address hunger
South Africa experiences the highest levels of inequality in the world and the scope of food-insecurity and the hunger it causes for vulnerable South Africans is prolonged and profound. Everyone has the right to adequate food, but challenges ranging from high unemployment and poverty to the ongoing energy crisis and rising costs of living means households are struggling. This, coupled with the collective impact of climate change, which has resulted in a significant increase of droughts, flooding, heat waves and wildfires – which directly affects farming and harvest production as well as food prices - has amplified the hunger epidemic we now face.
In 2021, at least ten million South Africans didn’t have enough food or money to buy food and 2,1 million (11,6%) of South African households reported experiencing regular hunger (3 or more days per week). This translates into one in five of South African households being identified as food insecure. And when we consider that the Finscope Consumer South Africa 2022 Survey found that purchasing food/paying living expenses has become ‘the main reason people saved or borrowed money in 2022’ it’s clear we not only have a hunger and health problem, but we have compounded economic one.
If we consider the Global Goals of ending hunger by 2030, then action has to be taken now if any impact on aspects such as malnutrition, access to nutritious food and sustainable food production can be made. And there is no doubt that a collaborative approach is needed – not only by government and the private sector, but by NPOs, communities and individuals – we each have a crucial role to play and an opportunity to tackle the challenges we face on different fronts.
At KFC South Africa, we believe in the incredible collective power of South Africans, the can-do mentality for the greater good of society as a whole that brings our Ubuntu spirit to life. And while the challenge of hunger seems overwhelming and at time insurmountable, combating this very real societal challenge, is one that we need to collectively address. We need to realise that hunger is the gatekeeper to unlocking the potential of our youth and, by extension, this country as a whole.
Time to act is now
Collective efforts do not only mean better social grants or access for all people, but they also mean examining aspects such as food waste and loss, increasing sustainability efforts in farming for all communities and finding ways to eliminate the impact of climate change. It is also about actively supporting organisations to distribute food and helping with food donations.
Experience has also taught us that if we are to make the most impactful change, we must fight hunger at a grassroots level. Poor nutrition in early childhood not only affects children’s health, but their ability to live full and productive lives. 27% of our children are considered to be stunted – a direct result of low access to regular, high-quality, balanced and content-varied meals from preconception through birth and their growing years. This also impairs cognitive development and learning.
Quality early childhood development (ECD) – pre-school education – is globally recognised as the most impactful investment in human capital that a country can make. Research shows a return on investment in South African childhood nutrition is 53 times every initial dollar invested. By targeting children from low-income households, school nutrition programs also serve as a social safety net, by reducing hunger and improving children’s micronutrient status with diverse menus and food fortification. Additionally, the offer of a meal incentivises daily attendance and punctuality. The provision of guaranteed meals on school days also enables food-insecure caregivers to divert stretched resources into the provision of other meals for their children during the day and when schools are not in session.
The KFC Add Hope initiative has driven food security and access to nutrition in some of South Africa’s most vulnerable communities for over 14 years – having started in 2009 – with a strong focus on ECD centres and school feeding schemes. The initiative has provided over 285 million meals to date – currently supporting 134 different non-profit organisations across South Africa. And we have steadily increased this reach and scale through additional relief feeding efforts as well as partnerships with humanitarian aid organisations.
In fact, if we consider that community-driven initiatives are among the fastest growing mechanisms for channeling development assistance and changing futures, especially in the current market, it is very clear that feeding schemes and NPOs have a much bigger role to play in formulating a broader social impact for truly delivering hope. KFC Add Hope is not only an example of how we address immediate needs, but also how we have created a platform to partner with consumers who want to make a real difference, with just R2, and collaborating with a broader network to gain community insight and examine strategies and implementation initiatives that are sustainable and make a much longer-term impact.
Fighting hunger requires both an immediate and long-term approach. Having a vision for the future must play a part in the process of finding immediate solutions that address not only day-to-day challenges, but the cause of the problem. Food security is about more than simply having sufficient supplies available. We also need a strategy that is focused on long-term growth and mobilisation of our youth, and we must look at the social compact and have the public, private and NGO sectors join forces to build out a targeted and sustainable network of feeding schemes and strategies– ones that target and reach the most vulnerable and grow out from there.
We can only make a difference if we tackle it together. DM
Author: Andra Nel, Marketing Manager, Brand & Purpose, at KFC.