Students struggling financially on the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus can now access a food support programme.
Launched on Friday, Tiger Brands’ Plates4days programme supports students by looking after their dietary needs.
The company said insufficient facilities, financial circumstances and financing woes over accommodation, transport and books meant many students do not have reliable access to affordable and nutritious food.
Tiger Brands spokesperson Kanyisa Ndyondya said the programme had been running for 12 years.
The company said studies showed nearly a third of students battled with food insecurity and were unable to access adequate nutritious food daily.
It added it was committed to supporting students across the country, and the programme had grown to support 4,500 students with monthly food parcels since its inception in 2008.
“Plates4days is a nutritional support programme for students, empowering them to focus their energy where it is needed – on their studies,” Tiger Brands’ chief corporate affairs officer, Mary-Jane Morifi, said at the launch.
She added: “Food is the last thing a student should have to worry about.”
According to Ndyondya, the nutrition programme had been hailed by its beneficiaries.
Siphiwe Mtshali, who is a second-year Bachelor of Education student at UJ, said: “I was sitting at the 50s because I was struggling quite a lot in terms of food. In the second semester, I was in the Tiger Brands project and it was providing me with food, so I was able to attend my classes with something in my stomach. When the results came in in the second semester, I was sitting in the 70s, and I’m hoping for distinctions in 2020.”
Rose Sendege, who is a postgraduate LLB student at the University of the Witwatersrand, hoped the programme would be expanded to other universities because “there were many students on campus who were going hungry and didn’t have adequate meals during the day”.
Tiger Brands has, to date, spent more than R100m on the programme and currently provides meals to students from UJ, Wits, University of the Western Cape, University of the North West, University of the Free State and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. It hopes to launch at other universities too.
“But the bigger conversation needs to be about a comprehensive approach to food security at tertiary institutions. We are committed to finding lasting solutions,” Morifi said.