Hunger around the world is on the rise again after a decade of decline — with 815 million people globally struggling to get enough to eat, according to the latest UN report.
And South Africa is not immune to the food insecurity crisis.
The problem of food insecurity in South African universities is a reality — but it not well-documented, according to the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Food Security.
🥦#ChooseDay : The Wits Food Sovereignty Centre aims to create a space of dignity for students by finding solutions to address the widespread hunger challenge at Wits University and the broader inner-city.— Wits University (@WitsUniversity) September 25, 2018
🍅Choose to make a difference & donate today : https://t.co/r8mUiCrPGFpic.twitter.com/Yqa7NJZo57
“There is a big need for research on the issue to be documented and made available — and for streamlining in terms of methodology,” according to an article published by the centre.
It’s for this reason that Wits University launched its Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) programme — including a Wits Food Programme that works to help alleviate hunger on campus.
The whole idea is to support students with their studies, by taking away the pressure of not knowing where their next meals is coming from. According to the university, students should only be worrying about how to deal with their challenging assignments.
#HolisticStudentSupports At Wits University we have food gardens on campus where student volunteers grow vegetables for the food pantry.— Diane Grayson (@GraysonDiane) October 8, 2018
“The Wits Food Programme encourages student donations to the food bank — students get points for donations,” says the university on its website.
WCCO inspires students to become active citizens and get involved in community service by encouraging them to donate their time, skills, and talents to support local communities.
The university told Global Citizen that the WCCO programme aims to contribute to developing responsible global citizens who are able to bridge knowledge with experience, theory with practice, and awareness with action.
“We believe that no Wits student should graduate without a strong sense of the ways in which he or she can actively contribute to the development of society through the proper exercise of his or her rights and responsibilities as a citizen,” said the university.
As well as asking students and staff to donate food to help students, the WCCO programme also provides Wits students with real-world experience, and opportunities to enrich their educational experience while addressing community needs.
“We collaborate with organisations that assist us in educating, empowering, and inspiring Wits students to make a positive impact locally, across the country, and globally,” said the university.
“WCCO’s effort to alleviate hunger among students on campus is highlighted as a part of an essential action towards ending global hunger,” said the university. “More than 100 student volunteers were involved in the Wits Food Programme.”
The WITS Food Programme includes the Wits Food Bank, which provides food parcels twice per week to students in need.
Other projects such as the Masidleni Daily Meal Project makes sure that between 800 and 1,000 students enjoy a hot meal every day.
There is also the Wits Food Gardens which grows fresh produce on campus to supplement dry goods from the food bank, while the Student Communal Kitchen allows students to cook their own food in fully equipped kitchens.
"To date WCCO has supported 3,500 students with food parcels, 1,700 students have received a hot meal, and at least 300 students have benefitted from fresh vegetables grown on the campus,” said the university.