The food poverty line, as calculated by Stats SA, is R585 per person per month and it is clear that the grant of R440 is set below the food poverty line.
There is no hope for poor children without nutritious food, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group’s survey of the Household Food Basket in the Household Affordability Index.
It shows that the average cost of a basic nutritious diet for a child increased by R15,01 from R695,74 per month in September to R710,75 in February.
The group says as children grow older, their nutritional requirements increase. This means that the cost of feeding a child increases in price as the child grows older. It is also different for teenage girls and boys.
However, the child support grant is a fixed amount: it does not account for age. The grant is currently R440 per child per month.
The food poverty line, as calculated by Statistics South Africa, is R585 per person per month and it is clear that the grant of R440 is set below the food poverty line and further below the average cost of R710,75 to secure a basic nutritious diet for a child in February 2021.
“Households living on low incomes change their buying patterns in response to changes in affordability. Women on low income buy the core staple foods first to ensure that their families do not go hungry.
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“If they do not have enough money, they have to drop foods from their baskets or reduce the volume of nutrition-rich foods they buy. This has negative consequences for health, well-being and nutrition.”
As financial and economic circumstances worsen the gap between what women can buy and what they need to buy for proper nutrition widens.
The group says the intentional underspend on the child support grant is quite shocking. “For months research institutions, including ourselves, have been tracking the impact of the pandemic and deteriorating economy on child hunger and nutrition.
“The evidence is stark that children are suffering from hunger and under-nutrition, especially as this comes on top of the historical stunting levels where the growth of approximately 30% boy children and 25% girl children under the age of five years is stunted.”
Not ensuring that mothers are able to feed their children properly is a direct form of everyday violence against women and children. The group says this is not acceptable.
“Under-spending on children has long-term consequences for our education, health, social and economic outcomes. For some reason, government does not want to understand this and fails to see that under-spending on children’s care and nutrition means that investment in education cannot be fully absorbed, as hungry children struggle to learn.”
The group also emphasised that the cost of public health care will explode because malnourished children cannot resist illnesses. They get sick more often, more severely and for longer.
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“Government is not seeing the big picture that hungry children progress slowly and if they do survive to be adults in the workplace that our future labour force will struggle to be critical thinkers who are productive and skilled.
“Not ensuring that mothers can feed their children properly means that South Africa’s next generation of adults and workers will follow their parents into the inter-generational poverty trap that will handicap South Africa’s future economic growth. These are direct consequences of the policy decisions that government is taking,” the group says.
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