The Covid-19 pandemic has brought food insecurity to the fore even more strongly than the ongoing drought. The National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) conducted specifically to assess the impact of the national lockdown indicated that 47% of South African households ran out of money for food in April 2020 (by comparison, 21% of households reported running out of money to buy food in 2018).
The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was shut down, which meant that nine million children did not receive their daily school meals. This left government with an unspent budget of almost R1 billion a month that normally goes towards school meals. Equal Education (EE), supported by the Equal Education Law Centre and public-interest law centre SECTION27, instituted a court bid on 12 June 2020 to force government to reintroduce the programme.
Survey showed that learners were still going without food
Although the Department of Basic Education (DBE) claimed that the programme had recommenced on 22 June 2020, EE argued that only children in grades 7 and 12 were being fed. On 17 July 2020, the Gauteng High Court granted an order that the DBE roll out the programme to all eligible children, whether they returned to school or not. Despite this, a survey conducted by EE in October found that 71% of learners who had not returned to school full time were still going without food, even though the NSNP had recommenced.
The Department of Social Development (DSD) reported on 29 May that 73 000 food parcels had been distributed by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), 218 000 in partnership with the Solidarity Fund, and 523 000 by the national department. However, Professor Jeremy Seekings, director of the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town, asserted that most of the food parcels for poor people under lockdown have been financed and distributed by civil society, with national government paying for and distributing 73 000 food parcels through SASSA (which had a budget of around R400 million – much less than the NSNP) and 55 000 through the Solidarity Fund. “It has been civil society with provincial and local governments that have tried to fill the gap left by the suspension of national feeding schemes,” he pointed out.
The Western Cape Government allocated an extra R53 million emergency funding to feed children from poor homes, aiming to deliver 10 000 cooked meals a day, with R18 million allocated to a special school feeding programme in April, targeting 485 000 school feeding scheme beneficiaries. The Gauteng Government set aside R80 million to feed 2 000 families a day. However, this was a drop in the ocean, and allegations of food-parcel looting and extortion have bedevilled relief efforts.
Collaboration to distribute food parcels
The Solidarity Fund distributed a total of 280 000 food parcels between 15 April and 22 May 2020 – more than the DSD reported on 29 May. More than 154 000 parcels were distributed via FoodForward SA, Afrika Tikkun, Islamic Relief, and The Lunchbox Fund. At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, FoodForward SA MD, Andy du Plessis, made a public appeal for R50 million so that the non-profit organisation (NPO) could rapidly scale its operations to reach as many vulnerable communities as possible across the country.
Working with a wide variety of companies allowed FoodForward SA to reach more than 900 organisations and around 400 000 people during the crisis (it typically works with about 670 organisations). Within four weeks, they had raised R20 million in funds. Big corporate donors included Investec, Standard Bank, and Old Mutual as well as big retailers and wholesalers such as Massmart, Pick n Pay, Kelloggs, Tiger Brands, Pioneer, Woolworths, Nestlé, Clover, Parmalat Danone, and Willowton.
Source details: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2020