What is ‘Hidden Hunger’?

Women and children eating

Today is World Food Day and Blog Action Day and it is a paradox that in a world where people waste food and/or consume food in quantities that exceed nutrition needs there are people suffering from hunger. This dilemma is further compounded by the fact that inequality in food availability and distribution can occur in countries not suffering from famine or some other disaster.

A report titled, ‘Hidden Hunger in South Africa’ provides for a disconcerting read because while South Africa is considered a food secure nation, one in four of the inhabitants suffers hunger on a regular basis. The numbers stack up at 1.3 million in total.

One of the causes of hidden hunger is gender inequality. According to the report women face hunger more often than men due to differences in income, limited access to employment or means of production and cultural practices that either puts women last in the pecking order or expects them to have smaller portions when food is in short supply.

Capitalism is claimed by free marketeers to have an inbuilt efficient resource allocation system but the market structure of the food industry plays a pivotal part in enabling hidden hunger. This is because the food industry has a huge influence on the accessibility to food and the pricing of food. Five large food retailers in South Africa control 60% of the market and retail stores are located in towns and cities which people cannot always afford to travel to. Imagine this problem being compounded if you are a woman with children and you have nowhere to leave them while you make this journey to buy food?

While the world is transfixed on South Africa at the moment because of the Oscar Pistorius case let us not forget that not everyone there lives in big houses and drives fast cars.

The reality of inequality is often the story behind the headlines.


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