Student hunger is a serious threat to student success at universities in South Africa, and Nelson Mandela University is no exception. According to the University's Fast Facts, the student headcount for 2023 was 30 297, of which 13 309 were first-time entering students (FTENs) and 16 988 were returning students. However, despite distributing 1 100 food parcels every month, the University is struggling to keep up with the need.
In response, the Mandela University Food Systems programme established a student hunger sub-group in 2022, which aims to tackle student hunger through student-centred and sustainable approaches. Some of these approaches include developing community kitchens, greenhouse skills development projects, and bursaries and scholarships for academically deserving students who face financial challenges. The #givingtuesdaymandelauniversity campaign is part of the Mandela Day 2023 Giving Campaign, with the endorsement and support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, to raise funds for these projects and to provide opportunities for thousands of young people who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela.
At Mandela University, 68% of 31 747 students receive financial aid in 2022. This means that about 10 000 students are unfunded. While there is not a direct correlation between funding source and student hunger, it can be deduced that unfunded students are at a great risk of student hunger when their families are unable to provide financial support to their student children due to poor socio- economic circumstances. Additionally, funded students are also at risk. This is due delayed fund transfers or receiving funding that covers tuition, but not means for daily living.
Hunger is a serious issue that affects many students at Nelson Mandela University. According to a recent survey conducted by the Student Affairs Department, about 30% of the students reported skipping at least one meal per day due to financial constraints. This has negative impacts on their academic performance, health and well-being. The university has implemented some initiatives to address this problem, such as providing food vouchers, establishing food banks and gardens, and partnering with local organizations and donors. However, more needs to be done to ensure that no student goes hungry on campus. The university calls on all stakeholders and friends of the University to join hands in finding sustainable solutions to this challenge.
A balanced diet that provides adequate calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre can support students' health and learning outcomes.
A poor diet that is high in sugar, salt, fat, and processed foods can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions that can impair students' health and learning outcomes. Food insecurity is a serious and widespread problem that affects millions of people around the world. It refers to the lack of reliable access to sufficient and nutritious food for a healthy life.
Food insecurity can have many negative consequences for individuals and communities, such as malnutrition, poor health, lower productivity, and increased vulnerability to shocks and disasters. One of the less known but equally devastating impacts of food insecurity is its link to sexual violence.
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