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Child hunger: ‘We can’t do anything’



As children around the world try to adapt to the new normal of learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of students are fighting another, more serious battle: hunger.

Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs encompasses food which is the most basic human need – something necessary to achieve self-actualization, which is a state in which a person can act to his or her full potential. This is why the most recent local statistics on food insecurity are of some concern as it negatively impacts the development of the country’s future generations.

According to a study on food insecurity in South Africa (Food Insecurity in South Africa – Evidence from NIDS-CRAM Wave 5) in April/May 2021, approximately 2.3 million households reported childhood hunger.

The statistics reportedly don’t look much different today and the research clearly shows that children in South Africa are not only hungry but also food insecure meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from and if they are eating even a meal this week.

Andra Nel, KFC’s CSI Manager, says 3 million children go hungry every week in South Africa. “When you’re hungry, there are very few things you can achieve and very limited opportunities to really reach your potential. We speak of hunger as the gatekeeper for children to reach their potential.”

Food insecurity in South Africa
Food insecurity is real in South Africa. Image: iStock

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Fighting hunger in kids isn’t just about feeding hungry bellies, though. It is also about nurturing children, and ultimately the potential of the land, which is why the smallest act of kindness – such as donating only R2 while buying a KFC meal – can go a long way.

The company’s Add Hope program focuses on children under the age of 18, ensuring that they receive a nutritious meal that covers a large portion of their daily needs to keep their bodies functioning optimally. Nel says that often it is only after receiving these meals that children can reach their true potential when it comes to educational and other developmental opportunities.

Unless you’ve actually experienced the effects of hunger, “it’s not something that keeps people up at night,” she says. If we don’t do something about it, the country’s children (and potential future leaders) won’t be able to reach their full potential because they’re starving.

“It’s a basic need,” says Nel. “As a society, we all have to do our part. The government is doing its part with a massive food plan for needy families, but we cannot expect them to solve the problem alone.”

She says this is a problem we all need to help with. If each person could feed another person, imagine what a huge impact that could have.

Let's fight child hunger together
Let’s fight child hunger together. Image: iStock

“The reality is we can’t do anything. Because the next generation requires us to do everything we can today,” says Nel.

Referring to recent research, she says that “a child under the age of five who does not get enough to eat will have up to 80% less income as an adult. That means they can’t give back to the community in a meaningful way. The physical ability is so much less.”

That is why we must ensure optimal physical development of the children in our country.

Children who are starving are also unable to learn, think, or get up in class and give a speech. “They face a huge challenge even before opening a book in school,” says Nel.

Ultimately, every little drop in the bucket makes a difference in the nation’s ongoing fight against child hunger and in helping children reach their potential. Ultimately, it’s about helping them develop into thriving, competent adults who can give back by contributing to the country’s economy.

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