'Not enough research to understand scale of food insecurity in universities'

University of Pretoria post-doctoral fellow Dr Marc Wegerif says food insecurity at universities is not being given enough attention and that there is not enough information in South Africa to understand the scale of the problem.

On Monday, Eyewitness News (EWN) revealed how a group of Wits students claim that they have been left destitute after they were promised bursaries by the Department of Arts and Culture. The students have apparently had to rely on handouts and have gone without food.

A study at 34 colleges in the United States found that 48% of students were experiencing food insecurity, while 57% of black students were food insecure compared to 40% of white students, says Wegerif.

He says the University of the Free State found 64.5% of their students are food insecure.

In South Africa, what we see is that it is black students, students from poor families and students who are the first in their families in tertiary education who are the worst affected ...what we know then is that food insecurity at universities is perpetuating these sort of inequalities in society.

Dr Marc Wegerif, Post-doctoral fellow - University of Pretoria

When you are not eating properly and you get inadequate nutrition, that is going to affect your intellectual and physical performance.

Dr Marc Wegerif, Post-doctoral fellow - University of Pretoria

This is a human rights issue.

Dr Marc Wegerif, Post-doctoral fellow - University of Pretoria

Meanwhile, Wits University has responded to the EWN report, saying they got a commitment from the Department of Arts and Culture promising to fund the students but the group approached the university two months ago saying they had not received the funds.

Spokesperson Shirona Patel says the institution has complied with everything that the department has asked for and has been told by the department that they would resolve the matter in two weeks.

We gave them some allowances just so they could carry on, where we could not help them was in terms of accommodation. We were not aware that they were sleeping in libraries or Park Station until last Friday.

Shirona Patel, Spokesperson - Wits University

As far as we are concerned we have complied and given them whatever documentation they require.

Shirona Patel, Spokesperson - Wits University

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