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Short article and podcast: South Africa should learn from Brazil about how to tackle ‘hidden hunger’

Brittany Kesselman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Society, Work and Politics Institute, recently published an article with The Conversation on hidden hunger in South Africa. You can read the article below. You can also listen to a podcast related to the article here.

South Africa should learn from Brazil about how to tackle ‘hidden hunger’

South Africa faces a double burden of hunger and malnutrition, on the one hand, and obesity with associated non-communicable diseases (NCDs), on the other. In many countries, in both the global North and South, malnutrition and obesity frequently co-exist in the same people. This is a condition known as “hidden hunger”.

Hidden hunger is a result of various factors. These include poverty, inequality, urbanisation and industrialisation of the food system. The interplay of these factors leaves low income households with very limited access to fresh, healthy foods. Instead, many South Africans – and other people living in similar conditions – subsist on diets high in sugar and processed starch. These diets contribute to increasing levels of obesity. But they don’t meet nutritional needs.

My research among urban farmers and low-income residents in Johannesburg identified the complexity of factors that influence dietary choices. It also identified the obstacles to accessing healthy food. Cost is a major impediment while physical access, nutritional knowledge, concentration in the food industry and dietary norms also played a role in shaping diets. Without addressing all of these, South Africa will be unable to address the double burden of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Despite the fact that diet has been a major contributing factor to the growth of NCDs in recent years there are virtually no connections between South Africa’s agricultural and health policies. Policies to address hunger and malnutrition have tended to be housed in the Department of Agriculture. They have focused on increasing production, whether through urban agriculture or support to small-scale farmers in rural areas. READ MORE

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