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Influencing Policy on Food in South Africa

A cartoon depicting the discussions at the Southern Africa Food Lab workshop in Johannesburg on 15 November 2016
 
Since we released our 2016 PACSA Food Price Barometer on 13 October 2016 we have engaged with a number of different stakeholders who are in a position to influence policy on food and the food system in South Africa.
 
 
Julie Smith, PACSA Research and Advocacy Coordinator, made a presentation at the KZN Department of Health Integrated Nutrition Programme Symposium on 14th October 2016 and to the South African Sugar Association Nutrition Symposium on 3rd November 2016. These events were attended by 430 dieticians and nutritionists from all over South Africa.
 
Dudu Radebe, our Practice Development Manager, spoke at a high level meeting hosted by Studies in Poverty and Inequality (SPII) on 10 November on ‘Towards a decent standard of living’.
 
Mervyn Abrahams participated in a seminar on food security hosted by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS) at the University of the Western Cape; a Southern Africa Food Lab high-level workshop on the food system attended by representatives across the entire food system and made a presentation at the Kwazulu-Natal provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s strategic planning session on the political economy influencing access to food.
 
Key concerns around the food system include:
• Water scarcity, drought and pollution.
• The huge dependence on large scale, commercial, industrialised farming.
• Corporate concentration, consolidation, monopolization
• Smallholder farming is weak and under-supported.
• Lack of transformation in the SA food system and the structure of the market
• The nexus between hunger, food prices, processed food, nutrition and health.
 
PACSA’s input in these spaces of influence highlighted the centrality of food affordability to achieving a decent standard of living for poor South Africans. Furthermore, that the food system is embedded in the broader economic system, including labour market dynamics and that one can’t look at any of the issues concerning access to sufficient and nutritious food in isolation, you have to tackle the issues systemically.
 
The affordability struggles of households to secure a diversity of good quality nutritious food and how women cut back on their own nutrition to ensure that their children are able to access meat, fish and eggs, dairy and vegetables. The implication of this strategy is resulting in deterioration in health and well-being in women’s bodies and heralds a serious threat to the public health care system.
 
We stressed that the question of affordability of food must be addressed through restructuring the labour market and finding ways to put more money in people’s pockets; and that the health sector should not be the entry point for remedy as the problems of poor nutrition lie in the way our economy is structured and performing. We have a situation where national government is spending a large part of our tax revenues on the health sector, dealing with problems caused by under-nutrition, rather than dealing with the food question directly. We found that PACSA’s entry point into good quality nutrition through the optic of affordability resonated and created much debate with the audiences.