Food insecurity highlighted on World Food Day

Women holding placards protest outside Parliament.

A protest at Parliament on World Food Day calling for action to increase food security. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 17, 2023

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Cape Town - “How can a hungry nation commemorate World Food Day?”

This was the resounding clarion call directed at the government and the private sector during a protest held outside Parliament in Cape Town on Monday.

About 35 people gathered for the protest by the People’s Health Movement (PHM) South Africa, whose placards caught the attention of those passing by, including motorists.

Those who joined the protests were from the Gugulethu Health Forum, Manenberg Health Forum, community and health activists, and neighbourhood watch members.

World Food Day is commemorated annually on October 16, marking the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in 1945. The day is used to shed light on global food security issues.

The PHM gathered to raise awareness over the increased food insecurity in the country, calling on the government and the private sector to address the crisis.

PHM co-ordinator Tinashe Njanji said: “The government needs to put in place some policies that we want them to implement so that we can have people getting healthy food.

“We are using this day to say that the government needs to put in place policies that are going to promote healthy living. Right now people are eating ultra-processed foods that they can afford but at the same time, that food is causing a lot of non-communicable diseases – cancer, heart diseases and so forth.

“The government must implement policies that are going to subsidise healthy foods so that the poor can afford them easily. We are saying that healthy food must not be a choice but it must be something that everyone can enjoy.”

A memorandum of demands was prepared and handed over to the National Assembly procedural adviser, advocate Victor Ngaleka.

Some of the demands included that the government: allocate more resources to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and to use a multi-sectoral strategy when implementing NCD policies and initiatives; support small-scale farmers and gardening initiatives with resources such as water and land; end the monopoly in the food processing industry; increase tax for producers of unhealthy foods; and increase tax for farmers producing non-essential agricultural products.

PHM member Andiswa Afrika said: “In my community, they have a lack of information, so that is why we’re reaching out to them on the ground, because the people in government are not giving people within the community enough information.”

Afrika works as a health activist in Gugulethu, Manenberg and Heideveld.

“Most of the companies or the retailers, they are taking food that is close to expiring and they are giving it to us. Because we are poor, we are rushing for it without knowing at the end of the day we’re going to get sick from those foods,” Afrika said.

“The government can only help by treating people equally and also giving people information about their health. People have high blood pressure, cholesterol and others have diseases that they don’t understand and they don’t know where it’s coming from.”

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Cape Argus