The COVID19 pandemic exposed a lot of society’s inequalities. I was young when AIDS was a terror in South Africa, especially in black communities.
During the savagery of the AIDS pandemic, the then minister of health stressed the importance of a healthy balanced diet. The then President Thabo Mbeki, armed with United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) reports said, in not exactly the same words, that the number one cause of death in Africa is hunger. When the hunger issue is addressed, you can tackle other issues.
As I grew older, I began to realise how urban, semi-rural and rural area homes ingest poor diets. Whether it’s blacks or coloureds. We even defend our poor diets with “traditional food”.
You go to the United states, African Americans call it “soul food”. However, when you zoom into “traditional” and “soul” food, you’ll realise that the kind of food back then was eaten as a survival mechanism.
What am I saying? Sorghum which I grew up eating for breakfast with honey as a child and couscous, a staple a South American child grew up eating have two things in common.
1. Sorghum, couscous and honey are very healthy and nutritious. Their health benefits are well known.
2. Their prices have sky rocketed to a point some where most Africans cannot afford a sorghum meal and the honey is doctored with sugar syrup.
It’s been reported that the price of couscous is so high due to global demand and the natives who fed on couscous cannot afford it anymore.
What do you do when the price of a staple is twice or thrice the price of an alternative? You go for the alternative of course. Is that “culture”? No, it’s a survival technique.
It’s not “my culture” to eat food with zero nutritional value. It was not the coloured culture to eat “tossed” fat trimmings with bread or condensed milk with bread.
Chitterlings and hocks are examples of meat slave masters wouldn’t eat. African Americans ate them to survive. Unfortunately like Africans, coloured people and Latinos they suffered from diabetes, hypertension and the like.
Back to the COVID-19 pandemic; how is it possible that a root of ginger and garlic which I love to cook with, suddenly cost R50 and R30 each?
Avocado, which has all the healthy fats suddenly costs R36 each! Let’s not touch pineapple.
This goes to show the marriage of capitalism and politics. The current price hikes in food shows that “healthy food” and health are political.
Now during the pandemic, I realise fresh food is more pricey than fast food. I see long queues at fast food restaurants and Kota joints. I think South Africa is in a trajectory similar to that of the USA, where an apple is more expensive than a greasy steak sandwich.
Tell us: Do you agree that healthy foods are more expensive?