by Genea Frade

Giving hope

Fight child hunger and fight future unemployment

Early development in children is supported by nutritious food intake
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With unemployment now at over 37%, over seven million South Africans may not be able to provide their families with the nutrition needed to survive. Children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, are not just hungry for nourishment to grow physically but they also crave critical nutrients needed to develop intellectually. Without these, we face a severe lack of next generation nurses, pilots, teachers and engineers, to name a few. 

The unemployment rate, which is directly linked to a lack of skills in the South African context, can also partially be linked to hunger and malnutrition. Speaking at the launch of this year’s KFC Add Hope campaign on 25th September, Co-founder of JAM International and JAM SA Ann Pretorius said, “A hungry child can’t learn or play effectively and can’t concentrate.”

She noted that recent statistics in South Africa reflect that 19% of children don't get breakfast at home and 51% don't take lunch to school. “The statistics go on and on and on, and what we see in children externally is miniscule compared to what is happening on the inside – to what is happening to the retardation of their brain development.”

Country Director of HOPE Worldwide Marc Aguirre added, “Too many children are going to bed and school with hungry tummies. Too many children have this unwelcome companion called hunger. Whether or not we feed children has a profound impact on their development and their ability to think analytically. Developmental phases are progressive. You can’t turn back and trying to fix it later on in life is very difficult.”

JAM SA and HOPE Worldwide are but two of 90 Add Hope beneficiaries that include childhood development organisations, children’s homes and school feeding programmes. JAM SA feeds over 20,000 children through the KFC CSI initiative’s ongoing contribution. According to Pretorius, the humanitarian organisation is on its way to feeding 40 000 South African children thanks to Add Hope. In addition, HOPE Worldwide feeds 5,500 children on a monthly basis through the initiative.

Backing up the link between employment vulnerability and childhood hunger highlighted by Pretorius and Aguirre, a decade-long study performed by NGO ‘Save the Children’ shows that malnutrition severely hampers learning ability in children. With three million hungry children, this means that hunger is a contributing factor to South Africa’s skills deficit, which continues to keep the unemployment rate up.

This study tracked 12,000 children across four developing countries, namely India, Vietnam, Peru and Ethiopia. Its conclusion was that children suffering from chronic malnutrition are 19% more likely to find it difficult to read simple sentences like ‘I like dogs’ or ‘The sun is hot’. It also found that these children are more likely to find it harder to solve even the simplest maths problems like five minus two.

Lauren Turnbull, Sponsorship and CSI Brand Manager at KFC South Africa reflects on what she has seen working with Add Hope beneficiaries to feed children from newborns up to eight year olds. “I have seen first-hand the impact a nutritious meal has on children and how it improves their ability to concentrate and function once they have a full tummy,” she said. 

“Early childhood development is an important place to start preparing our future generation to make their contribution to a country in which we learn, grow and thrive. By focusing on feeding young children today, we can put ourselves in a position to help alleviate unemployment,” concluded Turnbull.  

 

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