Too poor to put food on the table
MILLIONS of South African families are struggling to put nutritious food on the table. Their only hope is for the government to increase social grants. “Most households cannot cut back any further. It is time government intervenes. There are increases all around and it’s affecting the low income households the most,” said Julie Smith of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group.
“We are asking for government to consider its people, raise the social grants and to try to stabilise the economy.”
The group recently conducted a study that revealed the human poverty index, an indication of the standard of living in a country, was on the rise.
It reported there are 9.6 million unemployed South Africans and since the beginning of October, the cost of food in the household food basket in Pietermaritzburg was R3 038.50 per month.
Smith said the aim of the study was to show the link between poverty and the standard of living in the country.
“The study showed that if one had to look at the food on a person’s plate, it represented a lens of what’s going on in our economy. Our argument is that households are finding it harder to sustain themselves and the situation gets worse each day.
“We visited the homes of black South Africans during our study and women told us they could not get through the month on the levels of income that were generated in the home.
“When people sit at the end of the month and budget on their spend for the next month, money for food is always allocated last. If you are a parent, you need to ensure you have transport money for your kids.
“You need to look at your electricity and water bills and also debt repayment because if you don’t pay that off, you won’t be able to borrow money the next month. And the remainder of the money that’s left goes towards food.”
Smith said they found women who were living on a budget were often sacrificing themselves for their children.
“Women admitted to going to bed hungry. They would either cut the portions down and give the bigger portions to their children or give their children their share of the food. That is not healthy and not a good thing for ladies.”
She added there were many illnesses that could be easily contracted and without the proper food and nutrients, women could be prone to illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
The chief executive of Rise Against Hunger Africa, Saira Khan, said KwaZulu-Natal was the hardest hit when it came to food poverty.
“There are 3.2 million children who do not have proper access to food and almost a million of them are in KZN. They live either in child-headed homes or on the streets. Poverty is a big issue and we try to do as much as we can to alleviate it.”
Khan encouraged South Africans to “stop food wasting”.
The MEC for Social Development in KZN, Weziwe Thusi, said the department paid R2 billion in social grants in KZN.
“There are so many poor people we assist and many of them are on social grants.
“Each ward in the province has a war room where leaders get together with department officials and discuss the plight of the people. We get social workers to visit homes and assist either with food, seeds for planting or counselling.”