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Johannesburg Zero-Waste Grocery BusThe COVID-19 pandemic has made life more challenging for everyone, including the people living in South Africa’s largest city. Johannesburg inner-city residents are especially vulnerable during this pandemic due to unemployment and food insecurity. But there is hope. The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus has a mission of bringing healthy food to locals in a sustainable manner.

From Idea to Bus

The idea of a mobile grocery store was imagined by founder Ilka Stein and her team at the social enterprise ForReal. Starting in 2020, Stein and the 12 young volunteers of the ForReal team transformed an old bus into a mobile grocery store in just three months. Inside the “skhaftin bus,” metal containers are filled with dry foods, such as lentils, black beans, oats, samp, spices and brown sugar. The concept of the skhaftin bus is to bring your own “skhaftin,” a South African slang word for “lunchbox,” and fill it with the items you need. In addition to dry foods, the Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus has paired up with Bertrams Inner City Farm to provide fresh local produce, bread, juices and sauces. Stein believes that this bus will provide many locals with access to nutritious food in an affordable and eco-friendly way.

Fill Up with Food

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus plans on operating three days a week. During these three days, customers can come to the bus to pick up needed food. Procedurally, the inner-city residents bring their skhaftin and enter the front of the bus, spoon out dry goods from metal containers, pick up desired produce and finally head to the register. At the register, the customer pays according to the weight of the skhaftin and leaves through the back of the bus. Not only is it a quick food store, but it is also an environmentally conscious store.

Customers bring their own containers, which promote a plastic-free shopping experience. Additionally, the products are placed in metal tins to avoid the unnecessary use of plastic. The concept of fill-it-yourself versus pre-packaged amounts saves people from overbuying and eliminates food waste. These features aid in helping the planet as well as the poor. By eliminating excess packaging, Stein doesn’t have to pay the extra costs incurred from packaging and can lower the overall price of the skhaftin. Further, the take-what-you-need model saves the customers from paying for food that will just go to waste.

Money Matters

The affordable prices definitely draw people to the Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus. Shoppers find they can typically get more food for less money when buying from the bus versus the local grocery store. This has been a major source of relief for those unable to find a job, especially during COVID-19 and its consequential high unemployment rates.

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus provides job opportunities in addition to providing affordable food to combat poverty. Currently, Stein employs three young people from the local area to work on the bus. Stein also ensures that the bus is mindful of the surrounding businesses. The team continues to test out new parking locations so as not to interfere with local shops. The bus aims to aid the local community fight against poverty in a contentious way.

Rolling Into the Future

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus plans to keep its valuable service going even when COVID-19 is no longer part of the picture. Overall, this mobile grocery store is proving to be extremely beneficial to people of inner-city Johannesburg. The food is inexpensive, nutritious, unprocessed and free from single-use plastics. Ilka Stein and her team are actively helping alleviate poverty in South Africa, one lunchbox at a time.

Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

SPOON, Helping Children With Feeding DifficultiesApproximately 93 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with a disability. A total of 80% of these children have problems with feeding processes. Children with disabilities often suffer from medical conditions like anemia and, along with children who do not receive nutrition through a caregiver, are among the groups that are most likely to be malnourished. However, two women from Portland, Oregon, founded the nonprofit organization SPOON to address children’s malnutrition.

Providing Nutritional Assistance for Children Worldwide

SPOON was founded in 2007 when Cindy Kaplan and Mishelle Rudzinski adopted two children from Kazakhstan who were diagnosed with severe malnutrition. They created SPOON to ensure that all children across the globe receive nourishment. SPOON aims to provide help for caregivers through nutrition programs and assessing the needs of children with feeding difficulties. As the most important part of their mission, the organization puts a special focus on nutrition support for children who do not have a family to care for them or those with a disability.

Helping Children With Feeding Difficulties

Children diagnosed with a disability are three times as likely to suffer from undernourishment than those without any disabilities. Furthermore, one of SPOON’s studies showed that approximately 91% of children in institutions and without family care do not receive the nutrition they need.

Carolyn Moore, the Policy and Advocacy Advisor for SPOON, told The Borgen Project that the two groups often overlap since “institutionalization and separation are more common for children with disabilities.” Moore further explained that the lack of training regarding children with special needs is a significant contributor to feeding difficulties and nutritional health conditions.

The population of children in need of the help SPOON has to offer is immense. Approximately 250 million children who live in developing countries are at immediate risk of stunting. Additionally, 53 million under the age of 5 received diagnoses with cognitive delays, reduced motor skills and other disabilities.

According to Moore, there are additional tens of millions of children who live “in institutions or … on the streets.” One of the main challenges in making sure that all children receive the nutrition they need is that caregivers often do not understand the importance of finding the right feeding process. This is especially important since nutrition is the main contributor to ensure a child’s health. It also affects the development of their brain and body.

Teaching People Important Feeding Skills

SPOON operates with several different methods. The first step of its work includes helping local partners and caregivers of children with disabilities. This is “to build their skills in the specific nutrition eating needs and techniques.” The initial training period covers many different aspects, including learning how to improve feeding techniques, correctly assessing the specific problems a child is facing and adapting diets and nutrition accordingly to individual needs.

Another part of SPOON’s work is the organization’s mobile app called Count Me In. The tool assesses the growth and problems of children with feeding difficulties, especially those with disabilities and in institutions. The app is then able to offer appropriate solutions to caregivers. Moore explained that Count Me In “can recommend improvements around positioning and texture” of the food. It is also a very efficient way for the organization to collect valuable data. By 2019, many orphanages in countries such as Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia have used Count Me In.

Advocacy and the Global Child Thrive Act

The third important component of SPOON’s work is advocacy. Moore explains the need for children with disabilities worldwide to have access to nutrition and support with their feeding difficulties. She emphasizes the need for nonprofit organizations to look at how to “change policies and change systems” permanently. For example, SPOON was part of the Thrive Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations that advocated for the Global Child Thrive Act, which was passed into law in January of 2021.

The coalition continuously met with congress and the media. This resulted in more than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate co-sponsoring the bill. The Global Child Thrive Act assures that the United States government will contribute to strengthening early childhood development. This is for 250 million children under 5 in low-to-middle-income countries. According to Moore, the act was especially important to SPOON, since it specifically included support for “children with disabilities or without family care.”

Helping Children All Across the Globe

In addition to helping with the passage of the Thrive Act, SPOON has seen many successes throughout the years. After working in countries like Vietnam, China and India for two years, the rate of stunting in the children decreased from 55% to 23% and the percentage of children with anemia went down from 41% to 13%. Furthermore, SPOON’s advocacy efforts significantly contributed to a policy change in Kazakhstan that resulted in better nutrition for children without family care.

Also, data collected through Count Me In in 2020 showed a 35% improvement in the growth of kids and found that 82% of caregivers had adjusted feeding positions according to the children’s needs. Another 2020 success was the development of the SPOON chair. The chair will help children with disabilities by allowing them to sit upright during the feeding process.

Partnering With Other Organizations to Help Children

SPOON has also seen much success through collaborations with local partners. In Zambia, SPOON worked together with CMMB, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children with diseases by improving their nutrition. Together, the two organizations were in charge of the Improving Nutrition and Safe Feeding Practices project. This project specifically focused on children with disabilities and without family care.

Moore explained that SPOON and CMMB provided “specialized training in the nutrition and feeding issues” that are common for the two groups of children. The project worked with nutritionists and clinicians who had no prior experience in this specific field. Data pulled from Count Me In in Zambia from 225 surveyed children shows that between the years 2017 and 2020, the feeding positions improved in more than half of all cases for children with disabilities. There was a reduction in malnutrition for every child that was evaluated more than once through the application.

SPOON’s work has significantly contributed to improving the health and lives of many children with feeding difficulties. SPOON has displayed solutions for helping disadvantaged children and has revealed the need for further organizations to join their cause. Moore noted with the “big shift in food insecurity,” due to COVID-19, SPOON’s work is incredibly vital.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: With permission from Carolyn Moore

Hunger in GuadeloupeGuadeloupe, a territory of France, is a small archipelago found in the Caribbean. Food poverty in Guadeloupe has a complicated history involving the archipelago’s relationship with France.

In 2008, Guadeloupeans began to fear a major food crisis was on the horizon. This fear was due to its neighboring countries like Haiti experiencing the effect of rising food prices. With the archipelago’s long history as an overseas region of France, Guadeloupe depends on food imports from the European country. Suddenly, people in Guadeloupe feared that French imports would follow suit in rising food prices.

Fortunately for Guadeloupe, the archipelago’s long-standing trading relations with France actually became a major source of relief for the French-Caribbean territory. France was able to provide Guadeloupe with food imports that helped them avoid a food crisis like in Haiti. In fact, the prevalence of malnourishment within the Caribbean actively decreased from 19.9% in 2010 to 17.7% by 2016. By all means, this is seen as a major victory in the eyes of many, especially for the people of Guadeloupe.

Reliance on French Imports

Yet, such news only signified a greater ongoing problem within Guadeloupe. France’s role in warding off food poverty in Guadeloupe showed just how powerful and influential the European country still was to the French-Caribbean territory. In fact, around 90% of Guadeloupe’s food in 2013 came from imports, a majority of which have historically been from France.

In terms of what this means for food poverty in Guadeloupe, it has now led to a reliance on food imports that have negatively affected Guadeloupeans’ nutrition and diet. In addition, as Guadeloupe is trading away much of their healthier crops, the archipelago must accept unhealthier and more processed food in return. As a result, the problems Western countries have faced in recent years regarding diabetes have translated into Guadeloupean society.

According to Rapid City Journal, by 2017, Guadeloupe was listed 38th in countries with the highest diabetes rates. The prevalence of diabetes from ages 20 to 79 was at 13.56%. While such a number may not seem like very much, it is in fact 42.58% above the global prevalence for diabetes. Hunger in Guadeloupe has, as a result, become an issue of diet rather than malnourishment. Such is the state of food in Guadeloupe. Many have now accepted these westernized diets into their cultures and backgrounds. This makes changing to a healthier lifestyle much harder.

Food Sovereignty

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope. Many Guadeloupeans have begun to advocate for their fellow citizens to utilize the diverse and healthy natural agriculture found in their own territory. Unfortunately, many Guadeloupeans seem to have grown out of touch with the traditional food of their own territory. This is evident since Guadeloupeans export much of their crop. Yet, this new move toward what some call “food sovereignty” could signal a monumental change for Guadeloupe’s future. Such a move would not only help to improve diet and lower diabetes rates for Guadeloupe but also be a symbolic gesture of independence from France’s economic and cultural grasp on the small archipelago.

Though the territory seems to be doing well on the outside, Guadeloupe still finds struggles with hunger and diet. A great trading relationship with France has covered the cracks over the archipelago’s issues with health and diet. In fact, much of the problem comes from such a reliance on France for food imports. The reliance on imports has caused Guadeloupeans to fall into unhealthy dietary habits. Yet, there is still hope with the food sovereignty movement. In the end, Guadeloupe shows how global poverty and struggle can take shape in many forms.

– Colin Park
Photo: Flickr

BrexitJanuary 31, 2020, was a historic day for the European Union, for it marks the day the United Kingdom left the Union based on a public vote (referendum) held in June 2016. Seventeen point four million citizens opted for Brexit in 2016 and, after several negotiations and talks, the U.K. is now the first former member of the European Union. An important and large-scale decision such as this has the ability to distort economic stability greatly.

Trade

The EU is the world’s largest single market that allows free trade among all its members. It is also responsible for negotiating trade policies on behalf of its members, establishing a single, strong voice throughout various negotiations. Since Britain is no longer a member, it must create its own suitable trade policies with the countries it wishes to trade within the Union. Britain also needs to negotiate for its own demands. It was projected that the U.K. stood to lose $32 billion after Brexit, with no trade agreement in place between the U.K. and the EU. Losses incurred are more likely to increase as the EU accounts for nearly 46% of the U.K.’s exports. Researchers project that Ireland’s exports to Britain may drop by at least 10%. This creates a serious trade imbalance and hence contributes to the national deficit of the nation.

Food Poverty

British citizens consume a significant amount of imported food. Brexit could lead to a rise in food poverty, as about 30% of food is imported from the EU and 11% is from countries whose trade policies were negotiated by the EU. Since there is no trade policy in place, food insecurity is bound to rise. Food prices will likely rise 6% by June 2020, according to researchers. Overall, an increase in food poverty may be on the horizon.

Immigration

The U.K. had announced that post-Brexit only highly skilled immigrants will be able to secure jobs and the additional requirements have already created an impact on the economy. Immigrants mostly work low-skilled jobs and the implementation of this policy has already lead to shortages. At least one in 11 posts are vacant. Also, immigrants occupy nearly one-sixth (140,000) of the 840,000 care worker jobs. The new regulations will soon prompt vacancies and greatly affect people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Potential Solutions

Trade talks between the U.K. and the EU are taking place effectively. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a “Canada-style free trade agreement” which the EU is prepared to accept, given the fact that the agreement would demand no tariffs or quotas from them. This shows that negotiations are productive and that the U.K. is trying to cause very little disturbance to the economy. Aware of its reliance on imports from the EU, the U.K. has opted for a mutually beneficial free trade agreement. As the cost of imports and exports are reduced, the trade imbalances are corrected. This in turn will influence food poverty as the general price levels will decrease and imported food will become affordable.

Additionally, there are multiple organizations and government schemes that help combat food poverty in the U.K. For example, The Trussell Trust and other independent foodbanks have distributed nearly 3 million food packages between 2018 and 2019. The organization Healthy Start allows the purchase of basic food necessities for pregnant women and mothers with infants.

What Are the Benefits of Brexit for the UK?

The U.K. is free to trade with other nations such as Japan, the U.S. and India without EU restrictions. This will stimulate growth in all nations involved in possible free trade and help tackle domestic issues, such as unemployment and hunger. Effective trading can lead to increased employment opportunities and better living standards.

The U.K. has given almost half a trillion pounds to the EU to be a member of the bloc. The amount the U.K. will save is significant enough to be directed at rising food insecurity, short-term deficit and unemployment. The U.K. is also able to craft specific policies to suit its needs instead of being subject to the ones crafted by the EU. The ability to do this helps the U.K. and other nations involved, as all policies will be tailored to be mutually beneficial and appropriate.

Overall, Brexit is a challenge. It is difficult to adjust to and likely poses serious threats to economic stability in the near future. However, this is only a short-term issue. Once the transition period is over, a structured agreement between the E.U. and the U.K. will help their economies regain stability.

 Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Hunger in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is traditionally known as a flourishing, stable European entity serving as a popular travel destination. Despite its ranking as the fifth wealthiest country in the world, hunger in the United Kingdom is an entrenched problem and the country faces food poverty at an ever-growing rate.

Food poverty, as the Institute of Public Health defines, is “the inability to afford or have reasonable access to food which provides a healthy diet.” Income disparity is one of the major factors causing food poverty.

Low-income families can spend nearly 25 percent of their annual income on food. Upper-class families, on the other hand, may only spend about 4.2 percent on food. These low-income families are not able to buy healthy food such as fruits and vegetables at the rates they formerly could.

As a 2013 Kellogg’s report notes, “the U.K.’s poorest households…are being forced to cut back on fruits by 20 percent and vegetables by 12 percent.” Families who do spend the money on these foods push themselves further into poverty.

Prior to 2013, hunger in the United Kingdom was rarely discussed since the rates were less alarming. With the advent of the benefit sanctions, hundreds of thousands of citizens have become dependent on food banks.

The government has instituted sanctions through the bedroom tax, which states individuals living in a house with one or more open bedrooms will receive less in housing benefits. Other sanctions have forced disabled people to find work they’re capable of doing and have placed sanctions on working poor through the Universal Credit System.

The Universal Credit System works to provide low-income individuals with monthly working and housing allowances. With the government sanctions, however, these individuals are expected to find jobs, more work hours and attend training meetings. If they do not comply, they are subjected to fines.

Government regulations are crucial in combating food poverty, as the number of people living in food poverty keeps increasing. The average annual household food bill in the U.K is projected to cost £357 more by the end of 2017.

The Sustainable Food Cities and the Church Action on Poverty, both of which are British organizations, pressure the national government, as well as the local governments, communities and companies to take more action. Without government intervention, it seems very unlikely any substantial, long-lasting impact will occur.

Sustainable Food Cities incorporated its campaign “Beyond the Food Bank” to call on governments for action. The program insists that there should be conversations regarding wages, healthy food options and vouchers.

While these organizations continue to pressure the government, many charities are directly impacting the lives of those in food poverty.

Maintaining the belief that all children should have a healthy and sustainable breakfast, Kellogg’s is donating “15 million portions of cereal and snacks” to food impoverished people in the U.K. through different programs and food banks. In doing so, Kellogg’s aims to reduce the statistic that “four out of five teachers say some of their pupils are coming to school hungry.”

Kellogg’s is also responsible for partnering with large companies such as Trussell Trust to strategize ways of reducing hunger in the United Kingdom. As a team, Kellogg’s supplies cereal and healthy breakfast options to Trussell food banks, which distribute the food to individuals with vouchers.

Between 2015 and 2016, Trussell distributed 1,109,309 three-day emergency food supplies, which is 196,171 more supplies than distributed between 2013 and 2014. According to Trussell Trust chairman Christ Mould, “Every day we’re meeting mothers who are skipping meals to feed their children, or people forced to choose between paying the bills or buying food.”

In an interview with Emily Dugan, spokesperson for the End Hunger Fast and Mansfield priest Keith Hebden said, “I have never before seen religious leaders so united on an issue and I hope our collective words and prayers reach the ears of politicians who have the power to act.” With non-profit organizations, corporations and religious groups united in the cause, many hope their work and call for government action will make hunger in the United Kingdom an issue of the past.

Kristen Guyler

Photo: Flickr

food_opt
Chronic hunger is not just an issue that plagues the developing world.

Food poverty has become a huge problem in Ireland and throughout the European Union EU. The Irish Department of Social Protection recently reported that 10% of the Irish population, or nearly 450,000 people were victims of food poverty.

The Irish Food Poverty and Policy Report defines food poverty as “the inability to access a nutritionally adequate diet and the related impacts on health, culture, and social participation.” The deprivation indicators include the inability to access a source of adequate protein at least every other day, as well as the inability to afford a substantial meal on one or more days during a two-week span.

BBC One recently featured an exposé in which three famous chefs lived with a U.K. family for a week and recommend simple ways to shop for and cook nutritious meals on a tight budget. One chef reported that his host family of five lived on the equivalent of $2.50 per day.

Almost all of the families revealed consistently empty refrigerators and pantries. The few items they had consisted of ready-to-heat, pre-packaged meals, as the families reported that natural ingredients were too expensive to purchase and too complicated to prepare.

This phenomenon has led to food poverty’s ultimate paradox: that those experience food poverty in the developed world are more likely to be overweight or obese than those reporting chronic hunger in developing countries.

What accounts for this difference? In developed countries, people who cannot regularly afford food are often drawn to fast food and pre-packaged supermarket meals that boast the lowest prices. The food poverty problem worsens when the most readily available food is cheap, energy-dense, and nutrient poor.

And even though food poverty only affects a minority of Irish and EU citizens, it has implications that spread throughout society as a whole. The Irish Institute for Public Health concludes that high food prices and decreased access to healthy ingredients could cause food riots and geopolitical tension, among other consequences.

The biggest problem with food poverty may be finding a viable solution. Government and health officials have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the issue. The Irish Department of Health and Children recently established a framework for improving the health and wellbeing of the Irish population, yet failed to reference food poverty as a pressing issue.

If the EU truly wishes to uphold its reputation as a leader in developmental aid, it must first address its own developmental issues and assure the wellbeing of its own population. The EU may continue to “sleepwalk into a crisis” until it fully addresses this different kind of food poverty issues that plagues the developed world.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: The Irish Times, EU SafeFood, Healthy Food For All, Combat Poverty Agency