Maverick Citizen

Food Justice


SA faces a catastrophic hunger crisis while 10m tonnes of foodstuff goes to waste every year

SA faces a catastrophic hunger crisis while 10m tonnes of foodstuff goes to waste every year
Hunger is linked to many societal challenges, chief among them being poverty and unemployment. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The amount of nutritious food wasted in our food chain – from farms to retailers – is staggering. We waste 10 million tonnes annually, equivalent to 30 billion meals. With 20 million people on a spectrum of severe food vulnerability, the need in a year is around 20 billion meals.

Let’s be clear: The hunger crisis in South Africa is catastrophic. You might think this is an exaggeration, but the data speaks for itself.

  • Up to 20 million South Africans are severely food insecure, with millions of children going to bed hungry each night – a shameful reality.
  • Shockingly, 27% of our children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, stunting and wasting. In a country with an abundance of food, this is not just heartbreaking for families but also threatens our nation’s future.
  • Every year, 7-10 million tonnes of edible food are wasted, equivalent to 30 billion meals. This wasted food alone could feed all those in need.
  • South African landfills emit up to 450 million kilogrammes of methane gas annually because of the wasted food and organic waste going into landfills.

What can be done about it?

While organisations like SA Harvest are doing commendable work (at SA Harvest we have provided 53 million nutritious meals in 48 months), we can’t solve this crisis alone. 

It’s time for fundamental systemic changes, and that’s where government comes in.

They have the resources and power, but tragically, they lack the will. 

Ending hunger in South Africa – preventing malnutrition in children – should be their priority. That it is not, is heartless, cruel and an injustice of the highest order. It is also an existential threat to this country.

There’s much the government could do. One massively impactful intervention is to deal with food waste.

Legal intervention

The amount of nutritious food wasted in our food chain – from farms to retailers – is staggering. We waste 10 million tonnes annually, equivalent to 30 billion meals. With 20 million people on a spectrum of severe food vulnerability, the need in a year is around 20 billion meals.

The amount we waste is enough to end hunger in South Africa. 

Legislation is essential to curb waste and ensure rescued food reaches those in need through organisations like SA Harvest and Food Forward SA. France’s “Garot Law” is a notable example.

The Garot Law

France has implemented a food waste policy with specific regulations targeting supermarkets. The policy is known as the “Loi Garot”, or the “Garot Law”, named after the French parliamentarian Guillaume Garot who initiated the legislation.

Passed in 2016, the Garot Law has been highly effective in reducing food waste in France. It has put pressure on supermarkets to donate unsold but edible food to charitable organisations, thereby reducing the amount of food that would otherwise go to landfill. 

The food rescued in just the first two years post-legislation increased by almost 30%. Importantly, the law has also raised awareness about the issue of food waste and the importance of food donation.

The critical aspects of the Garot Law are:

  • Donation obligation: Supermarkets over 400m² must donate unsold edible food.
  • Prohibition of destruction: Supermarkets cannot destroy unsold food.
  • Negotiated prices: Fair pricing agreements encourage donations.
  • Reporting: Supermarkets must report food donations.
  • Tax incentives: Tax breaks for food donations.

South Africa

What is the South African government doing in terms of hunger relief and food waste? The short answer is: nowhere near enough. South Africa lacks comprehensive regulation. Despite some policy statements, there’s not enough action.

For instance, the 2014 National Food and Nutrition Security Policy emphasised the need for food storage facilities but lacked follow-through.

In 2023, a food loss and waste (FLW) draft strategy emerged, but it was poorly advertised and lacked transparency in progress after public comment. 

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) extended the deadline, but there was no increase in advertising its existence. 

SA Harvest submitted feedback but hasn’t received any confirmation from the department on whether or not it was received or any details on progress post-public comment.

I believe that the (draft) strategy should take a much tougher stance, and mandate by law what must be done to significantly reduce FLW and to bring all food policy under one roof into a single, dedicated structure.

Given the catastrophe in South Africa around hunger, malnutrition, loss of dignity and the greatest injustice to South Africans, it is illogical to have three different ministries responsible for creating solutions. 

They all struggle to communicate internally within their departments, so how can they solve the country’s greatest crisis, which necessitates communicating and coordinating between themselves?

It’s no wonder we’re in such an indescribable mess, with millions of our children going to sleep hungry every night in a country where there is no shortage of food.

Shame on us! DM

Alan Browde is the CEO and founder of SA Harvest. He ran his own marketing services company for 25 years before launching SA Harvest. Since its inception in October 2019, SA Harvest has delivered the equivalent of 53.9 million meals by rescuing 16.2 million kilogrammes of food that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Webster says:

    Not to mention the fact that the ANC denies the murder of white farmers, that policies are being put in place to restrict access to water to farmers who are prepared to hand over most of their operation to black ownership for nothing, that plans are afoot to limit white farmers access to certain foreign markets and the EFF’s never-ending attempts to intimidate, threaten and drive white farmers off their farms, this despite the fact that most commercial farming and food production in South Africa is done by white farmers.

  • Naushad Omar says:

    Legislation along the Garot Law would certainly help to mitigate against hunger. But the ANC will be unable to deliver like all their previous promises.

  • cjg grobler says:

    20 million South Africans are severely food insecure and Naledi Pandor goes full out to save Palestinians in Gaza from famine

  • ST ST says:

    This story is the story of the world! The amount of food going to waste in rich countries/people coz it’s past best buy date, or doesn’t look good, or or…can feed the poor all over, over & over

  • Sam van Coller says:

    Hunger and child malnutrition will not be solved through government action. A private sector coalition between the faith groups, SANEF, the supermarkets, companies like SA Harvest and Food Forward, the Agricultural Unions and most critical of all Gift of the Givers needs to establish a National Food Aid organization that mobilises all those who are not hungry to get behind it. ‘If a lot give a little, it is amazing what a lot becomes’ This is an absolutely critical issue but also an opportunity to address an issue of extreme inequality by coming together as South Africans. We claim to be special. Here is the golden opportunity to show it. As a start, the Archbishop of Cape Town could invite all the above to a Crisis gathering to start putting such an organization together. It is a shame on us all that a country that produces food has such hunger and malnutrition problems

  • Charles Butcher says:

    No wories mate its all part of the anc plan to BLAME APARTHEID and send everyone BACK TO THE BUSH, as its soo much easier to pillage the wealth when the masses aren’t involved in society.

  • Diana Clarke says:

    Just more for them to take home!!!
    Bugger the hungry- let the pigs feed from the free trough……

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    And we grow and produce 70% of our food from our own suburban garden. Small amounts of red meat, dairy products and olive oil for example are difficult. For the rest, we grow our own food. Avocados, mealies, potatoes, many different fruits, many different greens, 5 different beans, chickens. And we buy wheat and maize directly from the farmer, mill them and turn them into wholesome food. It can be done.

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