At the beginning of the hard lockdown in 2020, many South Africans spent their days trying out carrot cake and chocolate brownie recipes. I know my family and I benefited from my sister’s newly found interest in baking, as she enthusiastically tried out her recipes on us and eagerly waited for our feedback. Although many of us were able to cook and bake in abundance, many others struggled to put food on the table. As the effects of the lockdown became evident, it was clear that the deep fractures and inequalities that persist in our society had started to manifest in the form of hunger.
In 2003, former President Thabo Mbeki acknowledged, in his State of the Nation Address, that South Africa has dual economies. A formal economy that is well-supported operates alongside an under-resourced informal economy. Almost twenty years later, this reality remains true, underpinned by the persistent triple burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The situation has worsened over the past year, as the scourge of Covid-19 has exposed our splintering society and forced us to contend with the many failures of a malfunctioning system.
The hard lockdown served as a reflective moment for many of us as it exposed two separate realities in South Africa. Some of us were able to work from the comfort of our homes as Zoom meetings became a norm. However, did we stop to think about those that didn’t have the same opportunities to continue working? What about those that were dependent on the tourism and hospitality industry? How were those dependent on the precarious informal economy expected to put food on the table, and from where were they expected to get this food? What about the 9-million children dependent on the food and nutrition programme facilitated by the Department of Basic Education? Did we think about them as we exchanged recipes on Twitter and shared the outcomes of experimental baking projects on Instagram"
Each 1 Feed 1 is a food distribution network championed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation that was started at the beginning of the lockdown in 2020 to support families who have been most affected by the challenge of food insecurity. Beneficiaries have included child- headed households, orphaned families, the elderly, people who are informally employed in the early childhood development workforce as well as people living with disabilities. As we begin to transition into the reality of yet another lockdown that will have far-reaching implications for the most vulnerable in our society, we would like to encourage South Africans to tap into the spirit of Ubuntu and oneness by contributing to the Each 1 Feed 1 food distribution network. This can be done by donating non-perishable food items at all participating malls for Mandela Day.
As we enter yet another lockdown that will have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable, we should take the time to reflect on the dualism that exists in South Africa - a dualism that has privileged a few over the majority; a dualism that has meant that some of us can continue to work and provide for our families while others cannot. This dualism means some of us will have a full plate of food and still be able to try out that carrot cake recipe while others wonder from where their next meal will come.
I look forward to my sister’s next baking project and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. However, I will be encouraging her to contribute to the four canned foods for Mandela Day campaign by purchasing non-perishable canned food the next time she purchases her ingredients. We can all make a small contribution that will go a long way in making a difference to someone that doesn't know where their next meal will come from.