“We don’t know if the families get any support when children die of hunger.”
The campaign believes the profit-driven food industry, with its penchant for increasing food prices and its oversupply of non-nutritious processed foods to impoverished communities, is part of the malnutrition problem. It said the threat of climate change further creates the need to overhaul the way food is produced, sold and distributed.
It plans to link the estimated thousands of local community food gardens that exist across the country and work with grassroots organisations to set up more such projects that government, business and the public must support.
In the Eastern Cape, Cipset already works with 164 community gardeners across Gqeberha, supplying seedlings, training and equipment.
“Soup kitchens are a short-term solution,” said Baatjes. “We must give communities much greater control over their food, not just by donating seeds to plant, but through establishing food systems where communities have access to land and support and can produce and distribute food so people have food regularly.”
The other aims of the campaign are to secure a basic income grant for adults, an increase in the child support grant and the right to work for adults.
Doing it for themselves
Felicia Lethese, 42, CRC coordinator for Bethelsdorp, about 20km from Gqeberha, has been trying to put the campaign goals into practice for years. She lives and works in the town’s impoverished Riemvasmaak shack settlement, which was established in 2007.
There are only six taps for about 500 people and one has been broken for the past four years. The residents have no flushing toilets and use the bucket system, with the municipality removing the buckets of faeces only once a week.
The Children’s Movement has 1,000 young members in the Bethelsdorp area and runs a weekly food kitchen. It also conducts anti-bullying, anti-fighting and anti-drug workshops in schools.
The children in the area started two gardens using a spade without a handle to dig the soil and plant seeds.
“We had no fertiliser, watering cans, water storage tanks or garden equipment,” said Lethese. “Yet we managed to use this broken spade to set up our gardens because our slogan is ‘we use what we have’.”
The children also sew and sell “wonder bags”, energy-saving insulated cloth bags that continue to cook food in a pot after it has been taken off the stove.