South Africa constantly teeters on the edge of food insecurity, and the Covid-19 lockdown has just pushed us over the edge. Inevitably, access to food will be a major social and political issue for the next two years, leading into the local government elections. For that reason, it is in everybody’s interest that we address malnutrition and find urgent and practicable ways to ensure greater food security.

Before the Covid-19 epidemic, 20% of households already had insufficient food. Now, loss of employment, disruption of the informal economy, disruption of programmes provided by civil society, and rising food prices, have tipped the balance for many more families, raising levels of hunger and threatening to cause a spike in acute malnutrition.

We have been having a crisis of malnutrition for decades. More than a quarter of our children under five years are stunted. Countries use stunting as a measure of a population’s nutritional status. It signifies undernutrition over a period of time which prevents children from reaching the height expected for their age.

Research published in the Lancet shows South Africa is one of only 20 countries accounting for 80% of the world’s stunted children. Our stunting rate of 27% has persisted…

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