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Elderly hit hard by sharp rise in food prices

The price rose from R3 800.59 in September 2020 to R4 078.48 in March 2021.

Elderly affected by the rise in food prices. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Published Apr 19, 2021


DURBAN - The latest research from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) has found that in Durban alone, the basic household food basket prices rose by 7.3% or R277.89 over the past seven months.

The price rose from R3 800.59 in September 2020 to R4 078.48 in March 2021.

Julie Smith, researcher at the PMBEJD, said: “These food spikes are devastating, but especially for the elderly - particularly those in homes who are on a fixed budget - and well beyond headline inflation. The fact is the government provided less and institutions have less money to draw on.”

Smith said she’d never seen food prices rocket at such a rapid rate, and since completing the Household Food Baskets for March 2021, she’s already observed the basket is due to go up by about R95 in April.

“Elderly people have specific dietary requirements. They need nutrient-rich food, which provide high-quality vitamins from quality vegetables and protein sources,” Smith added.

She said old-age homes were facing a struggle as one of the biggest expenses for them was food.

Guy Levene, chairman of the Issy Geshen Lamont Home for the Aged said: “We are faced with the challenge of ensuring that every elder’s basic need is met, that is, nutritious food, secure accommodation, a safe environment and quality care.”

The Lamontville-based home provides 24-hour frail-care and nursing care to 69 elderly people who receive a government pension, and also provides specialised care for many elders that are bed-bound or who cannot care for themselves.

“The recent spike in basic food items has severely impacted the finances at the home. Items like sugar beans, rice, maize meal, flour, sugar, cooking oil and bread have seen sharp price increases. Fresh fruit and vegetables, necessary for a nutritionally balanced diet, have also seen major price increases – we cannot afford the increases on our grocery expenses,” said Levene.

“The PMBEJD prediction that food prices will rise a further 10% this year, puts enormous strain on our budget this year, as a large proportion of our budget goes towards sourcing nutritious food for the elderly,” Levene said.

Levene added that pensioners had been disappointed with the 1.6% increase in the old-age grant this year, which saw the grant rise by R30 to R1 890.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on our economy, including our donors. Given the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to practice social distancing, we have decided that launching an online groceries donation platform will give those in the community who would like to contribute a safe way to do so, ” added Levene.

The home has launched an innovative Grocery Donation Drive and fundraising campaign - an online e-commerce store where donors and communities can donate towards their wish list using a cellphone.

Keane Wade Rabilal, a grade 12 pupil at Hillcrest High school, helped the home move into the digital world by designing and sponsoring the e-commerce site.

The tech-savvy teen said he was eager to help the home when he heard about their plight from family.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for the home to take their Grocery Donation Drive online as it will be a first (in my opinion), that a local NPO has an e-commerce-like online donation store. It will be easier for people to donate, especially now during Covid. They will have a far greater reach of donors, which also appeals to younger people, who can easily donate on their cellphones.

To learn more about the campaign, go to donate button at


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