“Our kids are no longer eating healthy food, they just eat to survive” | World Development Movement

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“Our kids are no longer eating healthy food, they just eat to survive”

By Guest, 16 October 2011

Rosa Fletcher, used to be activism and events intern

Last week, Bandile Mdlalose, general secretary of the South African social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo was in the UK speaking at our climate justice speaker tour events. While she was here she spoke to WDM staff about rising food prices and hunger in South Africa. 

She told us how rising food prices and the privatisation of land is causing her and her family to struggle to buy more than mielie-meal (a relatively course flour and staple food in many parts of Africa, often made into ‘pap’, a porridge) on a daily basis. South Africa’s 1996 constitution states that every South African citizen has a right to sufficient food and water, yet this has not been achieved. Bandile stated that one of Abahlali baseMjondolo’s roles is to ‘reveal the unrevealed’ and her story around food poverty really highlights this. 

She described how her family and others in South Africa “are living in an environment we are unable to live in.” This is because more people are moving from being food producers to food consumers, vulnerable to price increases and volatility often linked to excessive financial speculation.

She described how her family’s food shopping has to be carefully calculated to make the most of their monthly social grants. Meat is a rarity in her diet and a varied diet is now no longer a priority, instead her concern focuses around having enough to eat. “Our kids are no more eating healthy food, they just eat to survive.” The long-lasting effects of malnutrition are well known to affect societies in a wide number of ways. Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s League are leading the campaign against food price rises in South Africa along with the landless people’s movement and the KwaZulu-Natal rural network. 

However, this not just a reality for Bandile, but is affecting people all over the world. Fareshare reported in early October 2011 that 35,000 people a day are being supported by their food donations in the UK. This is just one organisation and does not account for the hundreds of people that are fed each week at other food projects such as FoodCycle. My local Haringey FoodCycle cafe feeds over sixty people each Friday, with affordable, nutritious food.

We know that there is enough land and food to support people across the world and yet it is the politics of food that has been distorted. We live in a world where the richest countries in the world are unable to feed their people: in 2010, approximately one in seven Americans were food insecure. On top of this, there are simultaneously one billion people going hungry but one billion people that are overweight. 

These figures surely call for a rethink of the global food system and the vested interests for profit that drive the market. Financial speculation in food is pushing the price of food up, which affects everyone that purchases food across the world. As Depelchin has said:

The food crisis is not just about food, it is about understanding of humanity and its relation to nature."

Find out how you can help support WDM’s campaign to call for EU regulation on food speculation.


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