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South Africa’s student hunger crisis – and how to address it

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Student hunger is a huge problem across higher education institutions in SA, but there is no legislative framework that addresses it. On 10 September 2020, the Dullah Omar Institute - in partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Food Security - hosted a webinar discussing the problems and solutions to student hunger.

“There is no programme that looks at [students’] access to healthy and sufficient food. Student food insecurity has always been there, it’s always been a problem. Now it’s exacerbated by Covid-19,” said Rhondelene Williams, a researcher at the University of the Western Cape’s School of Government, at the Dullah Omar Institute’s webinar on student hunger and Covid-19 on Thursday.

Research shows that 40%-59% of students in the US are at risk of hunger. In SA, a study found that 64.5% of students at the University of Free State were at risk of hunger, while 65% of UKZN students were at risk of hunger.

There are feeding projects to address hunger on campuses, such as Stop Hunger Now at the University of Johannesburg which provides 7,000 meals a week, but before students can access these meals they have to deal with the shame and stigma they feel about being food insecure.

“The [food insecurity] data and evidence isn’t as strong in tertiary education. But we do know that hungry people are angry people. We also know that hunger causes trauma, there’s a physiological response to that,” said Chantell Witten, a dietician and a lecturer based at the University of the Free State.

This is ab abridged version of the article published by Daily Maverick. Access the full article here

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