Hunger in South Africa
Food insecurity, as Health Affairs defines it, is “a condition in which households lack access to adequate food because of limited money or other resources.” Hunger, put more simply, is a feeling of “weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.” Of the approximately 6.5 million people in South Africa, a staggering 11% suffer from hunger. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in South Africa.

Root Causes

Major causes of hunger and food insecurity in South Africa relate to several factors including conflict and instability, the changing climate, poverty and an increasing population. These sources are significant in understanding everything you need to know about hunger in South Africa.

According to World Hunger, the prominence of violence leads to limited employment opportunities, a downfall in imported and exported goods and the destruction of fertile land that would be otherwise used for crop growth. Food war, as another example, has the definition of “the deliberate use of hunger as a weapon or hunger suffered as a consequence of armed conflict.” This prevents citizens from having access to the food they need to thrive when they live in an unstable or conflict-ridden area.

Lack of Good Food

Impoverished areas prevent their inhabitants from living a nourished, healthy lifestyle when they are unable to access sufficient food. The cyclical nature of such poverty impacts generations to come. Children are often born undernourished, therefore inhibiting potential productivity at school and work.

Poverty generally impacts rural South African areas more than urban areas, and this is due to arid lands making it difficult to grow usable crops and a lack of goods that the South African government imported. The need to find a way to deliver food to those in remote, rural areas remains prevalent.

The climate crisis has had and continues to have a significant impact on hunger. Deforestation destroys fertile land, floods destroy homes and towns. Widespread drought kills crops and leaves families starving and forced to drink unclean water. Diseases run rampant across the country. For example, global warming has caused a significant increase in malaria cases, as well as other major diseases such as cholera and the avian flu.

From 2019 to 2020, the population of South Africa changed from roughly 58 million people to 59 million people. This large increase in population size, in turn, decreases the income per capita and can cause families to struggle to feed their children. With more children being born per family, the income needed to support these children increases as well. However, the salary of the breadwinners in the family remains the same. This can cause families to become impoverished.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Hunger in South Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated hunger in South Africa. According to Ipsos, most South Africans have seen an overwhelmingly negative effect on their income during the pandemic. Large numbers of them are suffering from long-term hunger and many have lost their jobs.

Hunger ratios in South Africa are on an upward trajectory after the start of COVID-19. Over 23% of South African households experienced hunger last summer, and 70% of households were reliant on government grants. Additionally, unemployment rates are at a record high of 32.8%, up 2% since the start of the pandemic.

Solutions and Next Steps

COVID-19 remains a threat throughout the world and impacts impoverished areas in particular. NGOs fear that a drop in essential funding and support may inhibit their ability to help those most in need. NGO Pulse provides a comprehensive list of organizations focusing on the impact of COVID-19. This is on South African families for businesses or individuals to support in order for them to continue to work. Several of these NGOs are stepping up during the pandemic to address the increase of widespread hunger in South Africa.

Founded in 1945, the ACFS Community Education and Feeding Scheme has centers scattered across South Africa which feed children who are undernourished. These centers also offer programs such as computer skills to family members and provide support for the economically unstable. Its mission is to ensure South African children receive food and proper care through the help of fellow South Africans.

By July 2020, ACFS had provided food to 24,000 households in South Africa. This is an increase of roughly 10,000 since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic proved to be a unique challenge. However, ACFS launched three new teenage girl programs and opened a second toy library.

Feed South Africa

Feed SA aims to feed both the stomachs and the minds of impoverished South Africans, and the NGO has put together an action plan specifically for those who experienced the most impact from COVID-19 in South Africa. This plan calls upon the national and international community for donations. This funds programs such as Back a Pupil, which became launched during the height of the pandemic. This program distributes educational packs full of school supplies such as worksheets and writing utensils. The organization provides not only monthly food deliveries but also other goods families may need, such as First Aid kits.

Progress is happening. Both national and international NGOs fight to end and educate the public on hunger in South Africa. Food insecurity remains prevalent in many areas and demands continued attention.

Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

A South African nonprofit has broken the world record for the most sandwiches made in an hour. Before this, the Guinness World Record stood at around 57,000. However, on Mandela Day 2020, Ladles of Love encouraged all Cape Town residents to order its free sandwich-making kit and made a total of 304,583 sandwiches to combat hunger in South Africa. The record-breaking sandwiches were received by hungry people all over the capital city.

Ladles of Love

Ladles of Love is a volunteer soup kitchen for the homeless. Although the organization is honored by winning a world record, it’s main focus remains to provide food aid to hungry Capetonians. Ladles of Love was founded by Danny Diliberto in 2014. While walking the streets of Cape Town providing free soup, the restaurateur observed a homeless man shouting and swearing. When Diliberto approached him with the soup, the man stopped to thank Diliberto and continue walking. Realizing the power of a simple gesture in restoring dignity as well as a basic human right, Diliberto founded the soup kitchen. Since then, Ladles of Love has served over four million meals.

Hunger in South Africa

South Africa has a population of 53 million people, of which 7 million suffer from hunger. More than half of the South African population is at risk of hunger with the poorest groups spending 50% of their income on food. In comparison, the average American spends 9.5% of their income on food. Many factors have contributed to food insecurity in South Africa, including unemployment, rising food prices and the disproportionate effects of apartheid on communities of color.

To improve hunger in South Africa, many large organizations such as the WHO and CARE have also invested in food aid. These efforts have made a positive impact. The percentage of hungry individuals in South Africa fell from 30% in 2002 to 13% in 2017. During this time, the crime rate also fell from 46% to 34%.  This observation supports studies that show that improving food security reduces conflict and improves economies. Every dollar invested in childhood nutrition programs and interventions yields around $16 in return.

Hunger and COVID in South Africa

As the COVID pandemic puts more South Africans out of work and weakens the economy, more food aid is crucial to helping the country recover. Organizations like Ladles of Love have already stepped up. The non-profit said that, in addition to making record-breaking sandwiches, it is now supplying various soup kitchens, shelters and 110 beneficiaries and NPOs (who support 250 beneficiaries of their own) in order to help provide food where it is needed most.

With the help of organizations like Ladles of Love and support from government institutions, South Africa is working to overcome food insecurity. Currently, the country has the highest number of COVID cases on the continent. In addition to record-breaking sandwiches, the nation is in need of greater investment in food aid. As demonstrated by a local initiative that feeds hundreds of thousands of South Africans year-round, improving access to food for the hungry and malnourished is possible through cooperation.

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South AfricaSouth Africa is the southernmost country on the continent of Africa. The country has 11 official languages and more than 56 million people with ethnic and religious diversity. The country has struggled with several issues such as food insecurity, poverty and a poor healthcare system. Here are five facts to know about hunger in South Africa.

5 Facts About Hunger in South Africa

  1. More than 6 million people in South Africa experienced hunger in 2017. In the northern region of the country called Limpopo, 93% of households had stable access to food in 2017. On the other hand, only 66.5% of households in Northern Cape had adequate access to food. The number of people who experience hunger has decreased in the last decade because of efforts made by the government. However, this data still shows the severe situation of food insecurity in South Africa.
  2. Of these 6 million people, approximately 2.5 million were children. In 2017, the majority of young children who lived in an urban area experienced hunger. Moreover, Black children are more vulnerable to hunger and poverty compared to other racial groups. Along with hunger, these kids experience severe poverty and are unable to access education and healthcare.
  3. Food insecurity has a direct association with men’s violence against their partners. A study conducted in South Africa shows that men experiencing food insecurity are more likely to be violent toward their intimate partners. Hunger and financial hardship affect people’s mental health and behaviors and, subsequently, the quality of their relationships.
  4. Recurring drought affected about 37.44 % of rural regions in South Africa. Repeating drought and flooding have damaged the ability to produce food in South Africa. These climate conditions make it difficult for poor households to produce their own food to feed themselves when they do not have enough income to buy food.
  5. The effect of COVID-19 on hunger in South Africa: The country had more than 300,000 people test positive for COVID-19 by July 18, 2020. The national lockdown and decreasing income negatively affect people’s ability to purchase food. Besides, people have little to no access to food because of the lack of an effective system for food distribution during the lockdown. Despite the government’s support for unemployed and children, more people than before are in need of support to access food.

Actions Taken by Multiple Nonprofit Organizations

Several nonprofits are taking action to address the challenges of hunger in South Africa. Food Forward SA collects surplus food from farmers and distributes them to the people in need in six regions of South Africa. Since rural areas and children are more vulnerable to food insecurity, the organization carries out the programs to provide food. Moreover, the organization has launched a Youth Internship Program. In this program, young South Africans can gain practical experience and learn about logistics and food safety.

In addition, the EACH 1 FEED 1 project by the Nelson Mandela Foundation distributes grocery items purchased by donors and financial donations to communities in need. Also, the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign tackles the systematic issues of food insecurity in the country and provides a place for other food distributing organizations to increase effectiveness and communicate with each other.


Although multiple nonprofit organizations and the government are working to deal with hunger in South Africa, the country still has a severe situation that requires urgent help.

– Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South AfricaFood insecurity plagues approximately 14 million South Africans. Poverty and unemployment are the two leading contributors of hunger in South Africa, caused in part by the 2008 global economic crisis, which limited job creation opportunities and the purchasing power of South African households. The nation’s economy has also been stagnant, at a growth rate of 3.3 percent since 2011 and shows little signs of improvement. In 2006, 28.4 percent of the country’s population was living in extreme poverty. In 2015, the rate had only decreased to 25.2 percent.

Causes of Hunger

Other factors of poverty include the legacy of apartheid. Apartheid barred black individuals from a proper education system and thus skilled and higher paying occupations. South Africans also seem to display a sense of disinterest in entrepreneurship, given the lack of investment within the business space. High food and fuel prices, high-energy tariffs and increasing interest rates further exacerbate hunger within the nation, as households are struggling to meet basic needs.

Solutions for Hunger

In hopes to mitigate hunger in South Africa, several initiatives have been taken. For instance, Dr. Louise Van Rhyn founded Partners for Possibilities in 2010. Partners for Possibilities is a leadership development program focused on using grassroots and cross-sector collaboration efforts to help teachers and business leaders. The program pairs a business leader as a co-partner to a school principal. By forcing them to adapt and learn to lead a complex and unfamiliar environment, business leaders gradually develop leadership capabilities in the process. The principals learn to work with other individuals, as well as a partner to help them better manage under-resourced schools.

This approach not only improvement schools, spurs individuals to be involved in a business, but it also empowers individuals to succeed in their careers, strengthening South Africa’s education system, economy strengthening households from hunger and food insecurity.

Major international nonprofits such as the World Health Organization have invested in millions of dollars on food aid programs. Often times, even though there is food in markets, it is not necessarily available. Thus, these programs compensate for the lack of access. CARE is another major organization that has been trying to limit hunger in South Africa. Their programs focus on the nutrition specific needs of fetal and child development, as well as home-based practices, making them easy to follow for households of various conditions. One of their most notable developments is the creation of the integrated model: Collective Impact for Nutrition. This particular model was established after 10 years of programming where “key nutrition-sensitive interventions support a core nutrition-specific behavior-based approach, ensuring not only the promotion of improved nutrition practices but also helping to provide the necessary foundation for adopting them.”

Ultimately, hunger in South Africa is a complicated issue, as there are many factors at play. From high rates of unemployment, lack of accessibility to food markets and economic instability due to a lack of education, its difficult to resolve hunger. Recent statistics have shown there has been some improvement in the nation’s economy, though small. For these reasons, it is vital the organizations on the ground continue their efforts to limit hunger within South Africa.

– Iris Gao
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Africa Starvation
South Africa is one of the few countries able to provide its entire population with food. Each individual is able to receive approximately 600 grams of starch, 300 grams of fruit and vegetables, and 150 grams of meat or fish, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, hunger in South Africa continues to be a prevalent issue.


Causes of Hunger in South Africa


Thus, 11 million South Africans are unsure where their next meal will come from, a concept known as “food insecure.” A quarter of the South African population is currently struggling from malnourishment and hunger. The rural areas are where hunger hits the hardest, and the majority of South Africa’s poor are living in the rural parts of the country.

The reasoning for this is because natural resources are being wasted and are not being put to appropriate use. The cost of food is rising, and many South Africans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford or access nutrient dense foods at an affordable price.

Dr. Gerhard Backebery, Executive Manager of the South African Water Research Commission states, “Although not conclusive, it seems that most poor people are buying and not growing the food that they are eating. At the same time it is of major concern that available natural resources (such as water, soil and plants) are under-utilized.”


Devastating Health Outcomes of Hunger in South Africa


People are not merely dying of hunger in South Africa, but more specifically, they are dying from the side effects of lacking proper nutrients.  What people are able to eat is directly stemmed from what they are able to afford. Children, in particular, are suffering from undernourishment and malnourishment; a study in the Eastern Cape shows that some children are only ingesting meat one time per month, therefore they are severely lacking in minerals such as zinc and iron.

One in five children are reportedly stunted from lack of necessary nutrients and minerals.  Their nutrient deficiencies can have a lasting effect on their growth process, causing significant impairment to their physical health and mental development.

For example, iron deficiencies can cause poor attention spans and fatigue, making brain activity slower and learning more difficult.

Food fortification is one of the main methods to help reduce malnutrition and deprivation of nutrients.

Wheat flour, sugar, and maize flour now include essential vitamins and minerals. The addition of fortification in food has led to a reduction in birth defects. Children who are not breastfed, or who have been improperly breastfed, present elevated levels of malnourishment, growth defects, diarrhea, and are at greater risk of HIV and AIDS.

Other factors such as access to clean water, sanitization and health care can have a large impact on resolving hunger in South Africa. They influence health and can lead to maintaining essential nutrients that may otherwise be lost due to diarrhea and dehydration.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: UNICEF, Food Bank, Mail and Guardian
Photo: Telegraph