With the multitude of issues facing tertiary institutions including tuition and living costs, racial division and sexual harassment, the problem of hunger on campuses flies under the radar. However, this is a huge problem that affects thousands of students across the country daily.
Maricia Smith, a student and representative of the Wits University Inala Forum says that the issue of food and hunger on campuses is one of the most under-examined issues in the country.
We have so many students that go hungry every single day. At the Wits food bank, we have at least 400 to 500 students minimum queuing every Tuesday and Thursday to receive some food parcels, because they have no other way of finding food.— Maricia Smith, Wits Inala Forum
Smith says that sometimes the food bank and the campus as a whole are unable to provide enough food to feed those students in need.
She adds that the high number of commercialised food places on campus adds to the problem, as there is nowhere to find an affordable nutritious meal that every student can access.
It's a disgrace. Our student's dignity is being undermined, because they cannot study, they cannot focus because they cannot eat proper healthy food.— Maricia Smith, Wits Inala Forum
Funmilola Adeniyi a doctoral researcher on socio-economic rights, says that there is a general acknowledgment in the country that hunger on campuses is a problem, however, there is not is not enough research being gone to quantify just how big the problem is.
Adeniyi adds that the research that does exist is on a campus restrictive basis. So what you have is different organisations or initiatives in one school doing research based only on that campus.
Once basic thing that we do know is a larger number of students are food insecure, mostly prevailing in specific categories of students, such as black and coloured students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and particularly students that are on bursaries and loans.— Funmilola Adeniyi, doctoral researcher on socio-economic rights
Dr Mary Hanes, the director Gender Equity Unit and Food Programme at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) say that government has not done anything to alleviate poverty on campuses.
She adds that they saw the food insecurity problem a decade ago at UWC, which is why they started their organisation.
Listen to the full interview below: