SA's malnourished kids at risk of depression
Children who do not receive proper nutrition are at a greater risk of developing anxiety, depression and even attempting suicide.
The findings were heard as part of the first National Workshop on School Feeding in South Africa, held in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The event was co-hosted by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, the University of the Western Cape, the Institute for Social Development and the Western Cape government.
Tristan Gorgens, from the policy and strategy unit in the Western Cape government, said research showed that food security had effects on schoolchildren and society, including nutrition, learning ability and crime levels.
"Most poor families are spending up to 40% of their income on food, and most of the energy they are getting is from cheap foods that are high carbohydrates," Gorgens said.
About 12 million children - more than 75% of all pupils - in more than 20,000 public schools are fed daily through the government's National School Nutrition Programme.
But feeding a child was more complicated, according to Stephen Devereux from the Centre of Excellence in Food Security.
"School feeding was initially promoted as an anti-hunger programme. But studies showed it was difficult to reverse the impact of malnutrition, including stunting, in children affected in the first two years after birth," said Devereux.
• This article was originally published in The Times.