Child Nutrition during Covid-19

Date: December 9, 2020
Time: 10h00 - 12h30
Venue: Live on Zoom & Facebook

This webinar will unpack the impact and long term consequences of Covid-19 national lockdowns and a weak economy on; childhood nutrition, health and development.


Nutrition is essential to childhood development. Poor nutrition results in poor health, increased prevalence of disease, low cognitive development, delayed mile stones and low educational attainment. Nutrition is shaped by dietary patterns and food choices, and malnutrition is more than simply hunger. It affects physical attributes (such as body weight and height), biochemical make up (such as blood values and bone density), and leads to clinical symptoms (such as fatigue and lethargy). Even before the Covid-19 lockdown, dietary patterns of children in South Africa were poor, with a low variety and nutrient-density of foods despite largely adequate intake of calories – consequently rates of childhood stunting in the country are high (27% in 2016).

Concentrated industrial food systems present parents and children with adverse food environments that promote ultra-processed and unhealthy food consumption. Meanwhile, healthier options are often unaffordable due to poverty and food price increases – a nutritious basket of food costs more than the child support grant. During lockdown, access to food decreased due to loss of household incomes, temporary closure of street trading, inadequate food relief in scale and nutrient content, increased cost of the food basket, closure of the National Schools Nutrition Programme as well as Early Childhood Development Centres.


Dr Chantell Witten (University of the Free State) and Prof Jeremy Seekings (University of Cape Town)


Dr Hilary Goeiman (Western Cape Government);  Daphne Erosi (Parent Organiser for Equal Education);  Prof Julian May (University of the Western Cape); Dr Lori Lake (UCT)

Key questions:

  1. What are the implications of a life-course perspective on child nutrition?
  2. How do food environments affect child nutrition?
  3. How has COVID-19 lockdown exacerbated child malnutrition?
  4. How has the state and civil society responded to the child nutrition challenge during lockdown?
  5. What are the implications for policy and governance?

Upcoming Events


We recognise that producers, processors, distributors and consumers are incorporated into the food system under varying terms and returns. We also recognise the economic, social, human and environmental health impacts associated with food security. Therefore our goal is to conduct research, build capacity and disseminate findings that will promote a sustainable food system in South Africa.


Our research is concerned with the scale, nature, causes and consequences of food insecurity in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. Thus our mission is to investigate products, technologies, processes and policies that can reduce food insecurity and mitigate its negative outcomes. We seek to make a difference to food security by linking innovative science with critical enquiry.