Problem: Access to food, South Africa

African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) recently analyzed 11 cities in Southern Africa in order to better understand the situation of food insecurity.   

Using this research John Crush and Bruce Frayne (2011) expose the supermarket revolution in Southern Africa, how these super stores are popping up everywhere, and how they are causing change in the organization of the food system, and as a result influenced South Africans ability to gain food (782).   

“Consumption patterns are becoming more universalized even as poorer socio-economic groups ‘drift towards poor-quality, energy-dense but cheap and affordable foods’ (Crush, Frayne 783). 

Urbanization and mass marketing are named as the two main reasons giving a platform for supermarkets to enter into the economic system, which previously was only available to upper class residents (Crush, Frayne 782).  Now there is an eagerness to expand supermarkets in order to be formally available to all classes.  

Even though there is plenty of food on store shelves in Southern Africa food insecurity is still occurring. And if we look back at last week’s discussion on the studies done by Kirkpatrick and Tarasuk,    we can see the same is true of Toronto where we are highly stocked on food from around the world, but nevertheless there are still hungry families and individuals amongst us.   

And although there are many organizations in place to help alleviate poverty who feel inclined to “Corporate ‘social responsibility’, an important sideline of agribusiness in Southern Africa,”  their main interest is still the business which is decreasing the mobility of local access to food (Crush, Frayne 785). Even the World Bank is devoted to saving the world with a business mentality which places the importance of profit as crucial to success. 

  In relation to development, it is made clear through the research in Southern Africa that the urban poor need money in order to survive the development of their economy. The research shows that the urban poor are worse off then the small time farmers outside the city who do not have to interact with the global raise in food prices and the growing reliance on food corporations who offer cheap food that lacks nutrients (Crush, Frayne 793).   

Much of the local produce that is offered at the supermarkets in Southern Africa is from large, corporate owned, commercial farming estates, who are taking opportunity away from small time farmers, who’s production is not large enough to provide for a super market (Crush, Frayne 785). 

As well, the opportunity for whole sale food distribution in Southern Africa has been cut by supermarkets who’s system, from production to store shelves, is tightly contained in a formal well organized and inclusive business (Crush, Frayne 788).  These supermarkets appear to have creates an image of legitimacy that makes informal food vendors and suppliers seem out of date, and as a result these informal players appear unable to meet the high demands of formal super stores and their consumers. 

  However, Crush and Frayne (2011) emphasize the continued importance of informal, local food suppliers, who are able to serve the lower class community since they are not inclusive in their means of accessing and distributing food, unlike the supermarkets.  Yet, the informal marketers are highly affected by the supermarkets who take away business and in many areas, and have become the place to access whole sale food deals to be sold by informal vendors(Crush, Frayne 789).  

These affects of food corporations on the urban residents of Southern Africa seem very similar to the events taking place in Ontario. Are local, small time farmers are also finding it very hard to stay in business with corporate competition, who offer lower food prices, are occupying large quantities of the dwindling farm land available, and are often more accessible than small time produce to the public. And our reliance on supermarkets has become extensive, more so than in Southern Africa, showing how development does not necessarily improve living standards, in contrast, supermarkets seem to decrease the access of quality food, diverse business and economic support creating an unbalanced economy.  An unbalanced economy such as ours has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and will probably work to do the same in South Africa if supermarkets continue to grow in popularity and gain economic power. 


One thought on “Problem: Access to food, South Africa

  1. Great post, I really liked how you drew parallels between Canada’s food insecurity crisis, and South Africa’s, highlighting that food insecurity is a global issue. Its very interesting that Canada, an extremely wealthy country suffers from similar issues to South Africa, especially considering the immense resources Canada has at its disposal. While I agree that supermarkets are becoming synonymous with nations suffering from food insecurity, is there a better alternative for food distribution? Canada is regarded as a socialist democracy, and has some of the most liberal policies in the developed world, however, I’m not sure what steps could be taken in finding an alternative to the current method of food distribution. Although some supermarkets are more expensive than others, and, as you pointed out, the gap between rich and poor is steadily growing, there doesn’t seem to be a way to prevent that. I think the a good step would be addressing the economic inequality you discussed, rather than food insecurity by itself. Food insecurity can be understood as symptomatic of economic inequality, and therefore we should take steps to reduce the staggering differences in income in this country. This however, must be done in accordance with current taxation laws, which are incredibly complex, and will take many years to alter. Anyways, cool post.

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