October 16th is World Food Day, named to honor the foundation of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Food has become a very big issue for me, or rather hunger has. My school has about 2 chubby kids, the rest or skinny or emaciated. And by chubby, I mean they look well-fed and healthy, and would be called normal in the States. I often stand at Assembly, looking at muscle-less legs and knobby knee, hollow cheeks and stick-thin arms. The kids in my village are hungry. Even those from well-off families may be painfully thin, and most are obviously stunted in growth. Kids talk about their “gold” hair, which is nearly as light as mine-on a black child. This is a sign of severe malnutrition.
Living amidst chronic hunger and malnutrition is hard. I can’t relay how torn I feel when I see obviously hungry children in my village. And the reality is that South African kids are better off than most in Sub-Saharan Africa. Every child at my school receives free lunch, every day. The government mandates that it is served by 10am because many kids go without breakfast, and you can’t effectively teach hungry children. So every child gets one meal a day, which consists of a complete protein and sometimes a fruit of vegetable. But for some kids, that is the only meal they get. And on school holidays?
One of the worst moments I had at school was when a gogo brought a child in to the school. The teachers started yelling at him, then he started to cry. Then the teachers calmed down and helped the boy to stop crying. When the boy left for class, I asked what had happened. The teachers showed me a container of grass and explained that the gogo had found the kids eating those grasses in the bushveld. I had no response, and sat there fighting tears until I had to go to class.
Food security is important to me, as I live in such a food insecure village. That is why I focus on the school garden and the development of home gardens. That is why I am working with learners to teach them how to garden. I want to give them a future where they know how to feed themselves, even if they are stuck in the cycle of poverty.
I found out about World Food Day on Sunday, and forgot to mention it to my garden counterpart on Monday. So I went to school today with a plan, and approached her about doing a tree planting demonstration with Grade R. She agreed, and we rounded the Grade R’s up before school let out and taught them about trees and how they can benefit the garden (mainly as shade and a windbreak) and how that means we can grow better food. Then the learners all planted Karee Boom seeds, and now we have about 75 seeds waiting to sprout, in addition to the 30 Moringa seeds we planted last week.
As you read this, consider where your food comes from. Be thankful that you live in a food secure society (if you’re my American friends) and remember that hunger is real, and deadly. It can be hard for those of us from developed societies to understand the importance of food because we typically don’t have to wonder if we are going to eat today. But remember that much of the developing world struggles to feed itself. Today, on World Food Day, more than 7,500 children under the age of 5 will die from hunger (World Vision).
That’s something we can’t ignore.