Right to food must be put on state's menu

03 April 2017 - 09:58 By TANYA FARBER
START RIGHT: Children wait yesterday as employees of food company Kraft Heinz distribute meals at two creches in Vrygrond, Cape Town, as part of the company's commitment to the Rise Against Hunger campaign.
START RIGHT: Children wait yesterday as employees of food company Kraft Heinz distribute meals at two creches in Vrygrond, Cape Town, as part of the company's commitment to the Rise Against Hunger campaign.
Image: DAVID HARRISON

All South Africans have the right to food - on paper. But University of the Western Cape researchers say alarm bells should be going off about food insecurity, and that civil society should be fighting harder for improvements.

Ebenezer Durojaye and Enoch MacDonnell Chilemba, of the Dullah Omar Institute, said that despite constitutional guarantees of the right to food, the government was failing citizens.

"Why are we not seeing litigation challenging the government on its failure to achieve access to food for all, given that the constitution explicitly protects the right to food?" asked Durojaye.

The university's Centre of Excellence in Food Security said: "The researchers reviewed broad swathes of literature, legal documents and international agreements to better understand how the right to food is protected in South Africa, and what the government and civil society organisations are doing to ensure that nutritious food is available to all."

They compared South Africa to India, saying: "Although the right to food is not legally enforceable in India, the courts have been called on to clarify the nature of the government's obligation.

"Indian courts have been very creative by invoking other provisions of the constitution, such as the rights to life and dignity, to hold the government accountable for its failure to prevent hunger."

In South Africa, however, "very little is being done by civil society to hold the government accountable for these failures".

Durojaye and Chilemba cited the work of the Treatment Action Campaign - which agitated for the roll-out of ARVs to people with HIV - as a role model.

"South African civil society groups can learn from the Indian experience by establishing a campaign on the right to food and filing test cases to hold the government accountable."

Unicef said food insecurity is particularly destructive to children. It said: "Just as the damaging effects of malnutrition can pass from one generation to the next, so can the benefits of good nutrition.

"Giving a child a solid nutritional start has an impact for life on physical, mental and social development."

But South African corporates are tackling the issue.

Marcos Romaniero, head of food company Kraft Heinz in Africa, the Middle East and Asia - distributed meals yesterday at two creches in Vrygrond, Cape Town, as part of the company's commitment to "eradicate global hunger by providing 1billion meals globally by 2021".

Stats SA said 13% of pupils go hungry at school.

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