/ 20 February 2024

Confront injustice by fighting against hunger in South Africa

Feeding Scheme
Learners queue for a meal. (Madelene Cronje)

As we observe the World Day of Social Justice on 20 February it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the persistent problem of food vulnerability in South Africa and the need for systemic change. In a nation rich with resources and enough food for all, the harsh reality is that millions still face hunger, with children bearing the brunt of this injustice.

Ending hunger requires the integration of charity feeding and systemic intervention, which addresses the root causes of food insecurity. This approach is grounded in the constitutional rights enshrined in sections 27 and 28 of the Constitution, which affirm every person’s right to adequate food and nutrition, particularly children. 

This is further echoed by sustainable development goal two (zero hunger), which calls for the global community to work together to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition.

But the glaring disparity between constitutional mandate and lived reality in South Africa underscores the urgent need for transformative action. Despite constitutional promises, millions continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. It’s time for our leaders to heed the call of justice and prioritise the well-being of all people.

SA Harvest feeds hungry people on a charitable basis — it has delivered 53 million nutritious meals since inception four years ago by rescuing 16 million kilogrammes of food that would otherwise have ended up in landfill — and although charity feeding is essential in South Africa, it does not put an end to hunger.

In the integration of charity feeding and systemic solutions, the actions must be scalable and evidence-based — a holistic approach that empowers people and fosters long-term resilience. Initiatives such as that in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, provides employment opportunities and training in agri-business to the youth, addressing immediate hunger and cultivating sustainable pathways out of poverty.

Moreover, we recognise the power of advocacy in effecting meaningful and sustainable change. SA Harvest has assembled a multidisciplinary team consisting of lawyers, researchers and economists to articulate a compelling way for legislative reforms that prioritise food security and social justice. The aim is to show what can be done quickly and with huge effect if the government instituted the appropriate legislation.

Ending hunger is not merely a moral imperative, it’s a basic human right. By harnessing collective resolve and expertise, we can build a South Africa where no child goes to sleep hungry and where every person has the opportunity to thrive.

The theme of this year’s World Day of Social Justice is “Bridging gaps, building alliances”. This theme has particular relevance to the fight against the injustice of hunger because its success depends on all stakeholders — the government, civil society and the private sector — joining us in this critical endeavour.

Together, let us forge a path towards a more just and equitable society, where the scourge of hunger is but a distant memory.

Alan Browde is the chief executive and founder of SA Harvest. For more on SA Harvest, follow them on social media @saharvest. Facebook Instagram