Members of the People’s Health Movement picket outside Parliament.     MTHUTHUZELI NTSEKU
Members of the People’s Health Movement picket outside Parliament. MTHUTHUZELI NTSEKU

WATCH: Call for Parliament to end townships being used as food 'dumping sites'

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Dec 11, 2019

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Cape Town - Member of the People’s Health Movement (PHM) picketed outside Parliament on Tuesday to highlight the burden of malnutrition, under-nutrition and obesity facing the country.

The organisation, which is a network of grassroots health activists, civil society organisations and academic institutions, demanded an end to the practice of townships being used as “dumping sites” for unhealthy food. It also wanted easy access to and subsidies for healthy food, taxing of retailers selling unhealthy food and the restructuring of the food market.

James van Duuren of the People’s Health Movement South Africa said: “Malnutrition is due to poor-quality diet as well as the amount of food consumed by the individuals and families who are struggling due to household food insecurity.

“This situation is aggravated by the cost of healthy food and easy access to cheap, unhealthy food in our communities."

Nowi Mndayi, PHM co-ordinator for non-communicable disease, said the townships had became dumping sites for unhealthy food which put people at risk of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases with children being diagnosed at a young age.

“Over the past few years, there has been an increase in supermarkets in the townships. Although these make a variety of food easily accessible, they are also a dumping site for unhealthy food, which is often sold at a lower price.

"They also undermine the livelihoods of small farmers, who have to compete with big corporates and commercial producers who enjoy hidden subsidies thanks to the way markets and tax rebates are structured,” she said.

People’s Health Movement picketed outside Parliament on Tuesday to highlight the burden of malnutrition, under-nutrition and obesity facing the country. Video: Mthuthuzeli Ntseku/Cape Argus

According to research done by the PHM in supermarkets situated in different socio-economic areas in urban and rural sites, there are differences in the types and quality of food between the different areas.

“Unhealthy food occupied the highest proportion of shelf space in low-income areas. For example, residents in disadvantaged communities do not have fresh fish in their supermarkets while the same chain store has it in a middle-income area. On the other hand, chicken skins were only available in the low-income areas,” Mndayi said.

She said despite the availability of a variety of foods in these supermarkets, in low socio-economic areas they also become sources of highly processed and fatty food items.

Mndayi said there was not enough healthy eating education in townships, “people only eat to fill their stomachs with no health consideration and this has put a strain on the health system”.

@Mtuzeli

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Cape Argus

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