What can you do to help food security?

Do your part to raise awareness on the food shortage in South Africa. It takes one act to change a system. (Reuters)

Do your part to raise awareness on the food shortage in South Africa. It takes one act to change a system. (Reuters)

The Mail & Guardian’s R6 challenge has been about raising awareness. One in four people in South Africa – 14-million people – do not know where their next meal is coming from. 

The M&G’s core mission is to inform people. We try to question the social construct of our society, by telling the stories of people and using these stories as a way to ask why some things pass as normal, when maybe they should not.

Hunger is one of these things.
It is chronic in South Africa, and has been this way for decades. Things are getting worse, thanks to a lack of implementation of government policies, and the loss of farmland. This dovetails with poverty and the lack of jobs in this country – officially, a quarter of people do not have jobs.

Without money, people cannot buy good food. Without land, they cannot grow food. What food they can afford is not healthy. The M&G staff participating in our R6 challenge today found how it is nearly impossible to get anything except a starch with little money. Vegetables and fruits are out of reach. 

This is why South Africa faces the twin dilemma of high obesity rates and malnourishment. People are not able to eat properly. Children are unable to concentrate at school, so never get good grades. This robs them of their potential. The current system means that if you are born poor there is very little way to get out, because of the myriad things that undermine your ability to be you. 

And this is where solutions come in. Today was about raising awareness – something that will continue in our social media interaction and in our reporting – but going forward our newsroom is working on a tangible way that we can contribute to lowering food insecurity. 

It will probably come in the form of supporting groups that are helping to feed people and equip them to feed themselves, through agriculture or work. The discussions in our newsroom are also getting people to think about how they can do more in their own lives. 

Which is where we want to make the difference with our wider community. Now that you know 14-million people do not know where their next meal will come from, and 15-million are food insecure, we would like you to do something in your community.

It does not have to be much. But it also does not have to have a limit to its ambition. The world gets changed by people doing things, and creating ripples that result in system change.

You could pay your workers more. Without adequate money, people cannot afford good food. Their children will not be able to concentrate at school, and their potential will be squashed.

You could start a food garden. Fruit and vegetables are the most expensive thing to buy on a small budget. Any free areas near your home could – with just a small amount of work – become a garden. Put a sign in this, saying anyone can have some food. 

Donate money. Many people just do not have the time or energy to actively help out. Money – to the right organisation – can leverage a great, positive impact.  

Find, or found, a local organisation that helps feed people. Soup kitchens can be the only source of nutritious food that people have. 

Make food a political issue. Ask your politicians what their parties are doing on the national scale to ensure South Africa has enough good food to feed its people. Make food an issue that costs votes.

If we can raise awareness on food, we can hopefully get traction to push for a Food Security Act. At the moment there are so many disparate groups dealing with food, that the big picture is often lost. An Act would ensure food security was ranked alongside the mainstream economic concerns.  

But, most importantly, do something. It takes one act to change a system.

Sipho Kings

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