I have never considered myself wealthy but feel blessed every day and grateful to have enough to eat. Yet, I live with an innate sense of the injustice and inequality of our society, which drove me to devote most of my working life to the non-profit sector, focusing on uplifting lives through greening and food.
My parents instilled this. When I was five, living in Italy, we daily passed the slums in Rome where my mother pointed to the children eating out of dustbins. A few years later we resettled in South Africa and on trips to townships where my father promoted health and fitness, the inequity was all too apparent.
The poverty trap – inescapably systemic
A sobering read of Stats SA’s findings and a new World Bank report highlight that over 30 million in this country still live in poverty. These reports show South Africa as one of the most unequal countries in the world, and worsening due to low economic growth, high unemployment and a failed education system.
Stats SA’s data indicates how lack of education traps people in poverty. In 2015 they reported 79.2% of individuals with no formal education are poor, compared to only 8.4% who have a post-matric qualification. One wonders why the nation doesn’t spend more on quality education and educators.
It should come as no surprise that children are most vulnerable to poverty. Poor children from poverty-stricken households can’t eat properly, cannot grow well and, even if they do get to school, will perform badly. It is a no-brainer that we need good nutrition to foster cognitive ability, the foundation of learning. Bearing the brunt of unemployed parents, children graduate from poverty into being unemployed youth.
What kind of future do they have? And how does their desperation affect all society?
The upper and lower-bound poverty lines look at the cost of basic food and other basic living needs like shelter, clothing and transportation and are currently R758 (40% of our population live there) and R1 138 per month respectively.
The food poverty line represents the amount of money that a person needs to purchase enough food to consume around 2,100 calories per day, the minimum daily energy requirement for someone living in an emergency situation. I Googled what this look like and found an array of fad diets for weight loss showing images of muesli, fresh fruit, tuna salads, nuts, lean chicken, quinoa and even a glass of wine. How do you do that living on less than R1 000 a month?
There is much more to say on poverty but hopefully this short piece gives food for thought. How can you contribute and drive change?