Working paper number:455
Author: Jeremy Seekings
Millions of South Africans had inadequate access to food prior to the lockdown imposed in response to Covid-19. The lockdown as well as the subsequent rapid transmission of Covid-19 in poor neighbourhoods worsened this crisis. A series of disastrous decisions by the national government led to its comprehensive failure to ensure that poor South Africans could access food during the lockdown. Crucially, the national government shut down its massive school feeding programme, depriving close to ten million children of daily meals. The national government had no plan to ensure food reached poor households. It was left to civil society – individuals and organisations, as donors and as volunteers – to try to fill the gap, with assistance from some provincial and local governments. The total amount of food distributed (through food parcels and feeding schemes) in the first three months of the lockdown was a tiny fraction of what was needed urgently – and was even a small fraction of what would ordinarily have been distributed without a lockdown. Because of the suspension of national school feeding, much less food was distributed in total under the lockdown than before it. The case of South Africa reveals that there can be a large gap between what governments announce and what they actually deliver.