Hunger is one of the timeless challenges humanity has faced throughout its history. One might have hoped that well into the 21st century, such a challenge would have been overcome, but recent events have only exacerbated the problem. And the statistics don’t lie.
Globally, around 820 million people do not have enough to eat, and hunger ratios in this country are on an upward trajectory. Estimates suggest that on average 40% of South Africans, and one in five children, go to bed hungry every night and recent market and natural events has meant that those on the cusp, and those facing food insecurity, have become even more vulnerable with this number fast rising.
“The pandemic-driven lockdowns led to tens of thousands of job losses in South Africa alone,” says Andra Nel, Brand Purpose Manager at KFC. “When coupled with the overwhelming unemployment statistics we already faced and rising inflation which has led to a shortage and an increase in the price of many staple foods – hunger has become a massive challenge. And although the struggle against hunger is not a new one, it is clear that with the country’s economic climate worsening, jobs being lost and livelihoods threatened, action must be taken to help those in need.”
According to Brian Nell, CEO of Rise Against Hunger Africa (RAH), while the demand for support is widespread, most of the current need is coming from KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. “Understandably the KZN floods and water shortages have all had a negative impact on food security in these regions, but overall, I believe unemployment and a weak economy are two of the main driving factors. The displacement of people and loss of additional jobs in the past 12 months has also had a huge impact on the hunger crisis.”
Nel indicates that it is encouraging to see that world leaders are committed to driving the hunger agenda, with a goal of ending hunger and poverty by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. South Africa’s distribution of food is currently inadequate in terms of both scale and reach.
“This is why feeding programmes have such an important role to play in broadening South Africa’s food distribution to the most vulnerable. While individually they may seem small in relation to the big challenge at hand, – targeting specific areas and communities – their compounded impact can make massive strides in ensuring the most vulnerable – including children – have at least one nutritious meal a day.”
Nel agrees saying that in many cases feeding schemes are the saving grace for many people.
“Providing good nutrition to children between the ages of 1 to 6 is critical as these formative and developmental years of a child’s life are critical for a brighter and healthier future. We have seen a huge increase in the number of parents unable to pay fees for the ECDs their children attend. This is an indication of the families’ loss of income. It can also result in many children not attending school and for many, not receiving their daily meal at school which is the only nutrition they receive. Quicker registration process and a subsidy for many ECDs would assist with this issue, but its feeding schemes currently like RAH Africa that are making a huge positive impact for thousands of children.”
KFC’s Add Hope is another example having worked with a network of beneficiaries for more than 13 years in attempting to break the hunger cycle. The programme collaborates with a network of some 130 beneficiaries including the likes of RAH Africa to create sustainable solutions to this endemic issue – committed to building a path that is food secure for the most vulnerable, and to feeding children across the nation.
“Of course, this past year has been exceptional, even by Add Hope’s standards, as the programme has had to mobilise quickly to reach some of the remotest of areas,” adds Nel.
Incredibly, in 2022 alone, the KFC Add Hope initiative has raised over R87 million – collecting a total of more than R53 million in R2 donations, while itself donating in excess of R34 million. Meanwhile, the 2 791 feeding centres it supports nationally, 94% of which are EDCs, have been served more than 30 million meals.
“This is all due to the support of loyal KFC customers who, like us, want to make a real difference – and we are: the programme has raised more than R870 million so far, with KFC itself donating over R394 million of this, since inception. And we have been able to scale back to pre-Covid levels,” says Nel. “Every R2 donation goes towards helping ensure that the many who have suffered significantly are at least able to avoid hunger. R2 may be small change – but the change it brings to individuals and families is massive.”
So, what do we need in SA to change minds, wills and policies in pursuit of zero hunger?
“Firstly, we need more collaboration,” says Nell. “Although we have seen a lot of collaboration between NGO’s since Covid, we need to continue to grow and work together, where they need corporate and civil South Africa to give them greater support. World Hunger Day and World Food Day for example are very important to keep the awareness around the hunger crisis forefront of people’s minds – from food waste, building food security within communities to creating innovative sustainable solutions, all need to be discussed and resolutions found and implemented to prevent hunger increasing to an uncontrollable level. I also believe corporate SA should be given more credits and benefits for the support they give.”
“We have a critical responsibility to act in the interest of South Africa and this means continuing to support the communities which we serve, as well as amplifying efforts. Everyone has a role to play, and we can make a big difference if we tackle this together and as we commemorate World Hunger Day on the 28th of May, let’s remember that what might be considered ‘small change’ it can drive far-reaching change,” concludes Nel.