Despite efforts by government, business, NGOs and the public in enhancing food security for the poverty-stricken, food poverty is pervasive in South Africa. According to Stats SA (2017) [1], 55.5% of South Africans are living in poverty, with this figure significantly attributed to high consumer prices, especially for energy and food. The realities of prolonged unemployment, low-waged work, and caring for orphaned children, erode the capacity of households to respond to price hikes in food, transport, and basic services. A third of South Africans rely on social grants. Yet, the purchasing power of these grants are eroded by economic challenges indicated.

The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA), using the food poverty line and research findings on dietary requirements for adequate nutrition, asserts that low-income households are finding it increasingly difficult to secure a basic, nutritious monthly diet, and are underspending on food by 54% (Smith et al., 2017) [2]. PACSA argues that the eroding/non-existent disposable income of poorer households produces a drastic reduction in spend on foods essential to maintaining good physical and mental health, and productivity (Smith et al., 2017). Forty percent of South Africans lived below the lower bound poverty line between 2011 and 2015, with the highest poverty rate, 59.7%, concentrated in rural areas (World Bank Group, 2018) [3]. Food inflation remains persistently high with several essential food groups showing accelerated inflation increases in April 2019: vegetables (10,1%); fruit (6,4%); bread and cereals (6,1%); fish (4,9%) [4]. More than 6 million children go hungry, regularly because their households live below the food poverty line, suffer income poverty, cannot respond to economic shocks and not necessarily able to produce their own food [5]. The deepening economic crisis makes it plausible to suggest that more households have fallen into poverty, pointing to the increasing difficulty for poor households to access a substantial quantity of basic foods. It is a truism that adequate access to food translates into improved psycho-social and economic well-being. Overall, accessing adequate food is a basic human right.

[1] Statistics South Africa. (2017) Poverty Trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 and 2015
[2] Smith J, Abrahams M and Chiya N. (2017) 2017 PACSA Food Price Barometer Annual Report
[3] World Bank Group. (2018) Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa: An Assessment of Driver, Constraints, and Opportunities
[4] Statistics South Africa. (2019) Inflation edges slightly lower in April 2019
[5] UCT News. (2018) Millions of SA children going hungry;