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What COVID-19 Revealed About Hunger

Summary:
The pandemic has shown the importance of community-based initiatives in fighting food insecurity. Unfortunately, when the United Nations Food Systems Summit convenes this month, few voices of those most affected by hunger will be at the table. JOHANNESBURG – In South Africa, many people struggle to access sufficient quantities of healthy food. Because their diets are high in processed foods, refined starch, sugar, and fat, they face a double burden of malnutrition and obesity, or what is known as “hidden hunger.” It is hidden because it does not fit the stereotypical image of hunger created by media coverage of famines. But it is everywhere. Where Has All the Money Gone?

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The pandemic has shown the importance of community-based initiatives in fighting food insecurity. Unfortunately, when the United Nations Food Systems Summit convenes this month, few voices of those most affected by hunger will be at the table.

JOHANNESBURG – In South Africa, many people struggle to access sufficient quantities of healthy food. Because their diets are high in processed foods, refined starch, sugar, and fat, they face a double burden of malnutrition and obesity, or what is known as “hidden hunger.” It is hidden because it does not fit the stereotypical image of hunger created by media coverage of famines. But it is everywhere.

To be clear, the problem is not a shortage of food. In South Africa, hunger is a result of lack of access. Getting enough calories and adequate nutrients is largely tied to income. Beyond the high cost of healthy food, hidden hunger in the country reflects the limited availability of nutritious products in low-income areas, the cost of energy for cooking and food storage, and lack of access to land for household food production.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the strict measures imposed to contain its spread brought hidden hunger out of hiding, as many people who had been able to afford just enough food to survive suddenly found themselves going without. According to one study, 47% of households ran out of money to buy food during the early stages of the initial lockdown in April 2020. Job losses, a crackdown on informal vendors, and price increases caused by interruptions in global food and agriculture supply chains all contributed to a sharp rise in food insecurity. Images of long lines for emergency...

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