Thursday 16th October celebrated the United Nations World Food Day, where citizens were encouraged to share each other’s cultures over a lovely meal that they thought reflected their personal identity or culture. But while some were sharing their grandmother’s best mac and cheese, those at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) in Grahamstown took the day as an opportunity to practically highlight the fact that many households simply cannot afford enough food for a whole month. PSAM’s Zukiswa Kota explained the situation to Ukufunda’s Dani Kreusch and Eva Euijen.
(Click on the photograph below to enter into a slideshow with deep captions).
Zuki Kota of PSAM explains that many breadwinners in South Africa only make enough to spend R6 a day on food for their families, which are on average comprised of four people. This basically amounts to four potatoes and a cup of rice a day, says StatsSA. To celebrate the United Nations World Food Day in a different and more eyeopening light, the Mail and Guardian challenged its readers to take part in the R6-a-day food challenge, where they could not eat anything that exceeded R6 in total for the whole day. (Photo: Eva Euijen)
While some members at PSAM took part in the R6-a-day challenge, Kota took a slightly different route. She took the average household income for the month and divided it by 31 days, coming up with a total of R22 a day to spend on food for the whole day. It was this amount that she took diligently to a spreadsheet so she could plan the meals for her fictional family of five on this budget. R22 for the 16th of October afforded her family one cooked rice meal, some milk and a breakfast of white bread and polony. (Photo: Eva Euijen)
Despite the rice dish having to cater for both lunch and supper for the family of five, its contents of beans, rice and an onion almost doubled the R22 budget to make. (Photo: Eva Euijen)
The monthly budget of the family also only allows for two packets of fruit and one packet of vegetables for the family for a month. “Look at that bag of apples. There are five people in your house, and everybody has an apple every day and that bag is finished within two days. And then what do you do for the rest of the month?” Kota said. (Photo: Eva Euijen)
“The families will eat healthy for the first few days but then will just not be able to afford it,” explained Kota. Carbohydrates and canned foods full of preservatives and too much salt are the staple diet of many as these are the foods most affordable. “Maize is filling, so that’s what they eat a lot of the time. But just eating carbohydrates leads to the double burden of obesity in the face of hunger and an alarming amount of iron and vitamin A deficiencies in our people,” said Kota. “The things in the cans are mostly junk, but it’s the best they can afford so they eat it.” (Photo: Eva Euijen)
After spending the day living as many South Africans do with only R22.00 a day for food, the PSAM staff came to the unanimous conclusion – they were hungry! “Those who did the R6 challenge had to skip meals to make the money stretch. And by the time lunch came they were starving. Put that in the context of a child, who needs energy to learn and who is being faced with multiple other educational problems. They cannot learn on empty stomachs,” said Kota. Even though many schools in South Africa have feeding schemes, the food provided is usually only for one meal a day, and the content is also made up of carbohydrates and canned goods. “And parents tell me all the time, ‘we dread the school holidays, because then the kids are at home for three meals. And what do we do then?'” (Photo: Eva Euijen)