oa ESR Review : Economic and Social Rights in South Africa - The right to access nutritious food in South Africa - feature

Volume 19 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1684-260X



In a study of the right to food in the 2013/2014 financial year, the South African Human Rights Commission (Commission) found that the right and the food system in its entirety were vast, complicated matters. The Commission believed that a systematic analysis of the different components of the food system was required to identify policy gaps and implementation challenges that were limiting the realisation of the right.

In a 2016/2017 study by the Commission specifically on access to food, a literature review indicated alarming rates of hunger in South Africa. The Commission began interviews to examine factors affecting access to nutritious food in South Africa. The research sought to assess if the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security (NPFNS) is adequate to ensure food security at a household level. The findings of the study are presented in this article.

The 2016/2017 report found, when examining the NPFNS, that it did not address essential components of the food system and was limited and vague as to ways in which the policy would be implemented and the vision of the NPFNS achieved. Furthermore, there was a lack of engagement on the development of the NPFNS, which means that it is unlikely to respond adequately to the problems and practical realities associated with the right or associated issues. In relation to access, the research found that although South African is food secure at a national level, onequarter of South Africans live in hunger and a further 28.3 per cent are at risk of experiencing hunger.

Many of those that do have access to food consume unhealthy food, or empty calories, which leads to malnourishment, obesity and other non-communicable diseases. Lack of access to food in South Africa was attributed mainly to poverty, while the lack of consumption of nutritious food was due to such food being cheap, readily available, particularly in large supermarket chains, and widely promoted in mainstream media. Furthermore, low rates of household agriculture, particularly in dense urban areas, has led to a decrease in access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

This paper concludes with recommendations to improve the management of the food system in South Africa and ultimately improve access for all to nutritious food.

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