World Food Day: Satisfying Hunger Is The Cornerstone Of A Thriving Nation

World Food Day

by Zodwa Velleman, Group Executive: Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Oceana Group


World Food Day (WFD) is observed worldwide annually on 16 October to highlight the plight of millions of undernourished people and end hunger globally.  This year WFD is observed under the theme “Our Actions Are Our Future Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger World”.

In Southern Africa food insecurity remains a major problem. According to the United Nations, over 2 million South Africans survive on only one meal a day, while 2,5 million children live below the food poverty line.  In May this year Statistics SA reported that in 2017, 6,8 million people experienced hunger, with almost 20% of households having had inadequate access to food. This may in the future be exacerbated by climate change as it is becoming an inevitable global challenge and impacts the cyclicality of various sectors around the world, including South Africa. The effects of which can already be seen in the recent droughts of the Western and Eastern Cape, as well as other parts of the country.

Food security is one of the government’s key imperatives. The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies methods and targets aimed at eradicating poverty. It, amongst others, identifies food security as a key element of both poverty and inequality; hence we cannot delink the relationship between nutrition security, poverty and inequality.  As a nation, if we want economic progress, then we must protect our right to adequate food. For us at Oceana Group, this means playing an active role in promoting food security.

As a leading global fishing company, we contribute to food security globally including Southern, Central and West Africa. In these African regions, we catch, process and sell horse mackerel, an oily fish providing high-value protein and various essential micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also consumed worldwide, with 1.4 million horse mackerel meals consumed per day in Africa.We believe that the provision of a low-cost, low-carbon and healthy source of protein has an important role to play in addressing food security among low income populations globally and, offers significant opportunities for sustained value creation.

In South Africa, Oceana’s iconic brand, Lucky Star, offers affordable protein. Around 800 000 cans of Lucky Star pilchards are enjoyed every day, satisfying the hunger of more than three million South Africans daily. Our efficiencies have allowed Lucky Star to minimise price increases and Lucky Star pilchards are also zero-Value Added Tax (VAT) rated to ensure that Lucky Star continues to remain affordable. This makes putting a healthy source of protein on the table a more accessible choice, especially for those who are most impacted by rising food prices. At the same time, we must also look after South Africa’s fish biomass, to ensure the long-term sustainability of our oceans and the industry, as well as protect the jobs of those in the sector and ensure that they continue to have a livelihood to provide for their families. “

In addressing the cyclic shortage of pilchards in South Africa’s local fishing grounds, we are proactively procuring approximately 95% of our Lucky Star pilchards supply from fisheries around the world. Once caught, the pilchards are immediately frozen at sea before being delivered to Oceana’s canneries for processing.   Whilst this results in incremental costs to the business, it has secured our operations and the jobs of more than 2 500 staff members employed at our canneries in Laaiplek and St Helena Bay.  Supplementing local stock with imported frozen pilchards allows us to create a sustainable fishing cycle, as pilchards are sourced from areas where fish populations are not at risk. It also reaffirms our continued commitment to the economy of South Africa by ensuring year-round employment for our cannery staff.

Our country sees more than 3 million children facing debilitating hunger daily. Chronic undernutrition can affect cognitive development, leading to learning difficulties and poor health in adolescence and adulthood. Their diets are usually deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, which medical trials have proven are crucial for brain growth and development in infants. This gives us impetus to intervene and make a difference. 

We experience first-hand the impact of food shortages on our communities with children, evident through the feeding schemes that we support, such as the Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA). Partnering with PSFA affords the Group an opportunity to contribute to the scheme’s aims to reduce short term hunger and enhance the children’s ability to learn through school feeding and increased school attendance.

This year marks the fifth consecutive year that we have supported Masiphathisane Primary School, a beneficiary of PSFA, in Vredenburg near Saldanha Bay, spending over R1.3 million on its feeding programme over this period. This provides over 600 learners with two meals a day, five days per week, for a full year. Furthermore, in 2018 we donated more than R1 million worth of Lucky Star products to schools and early childhood development programmes in Hout Bay, St Helena Bay and Velddrif – all areas that desperately need socio-economic intervention. This is equivalent to around 275 000 meals.

The benefits of these efforts are long-lasting: The schools reported a marked difference in the concentration and learning ability of the learners, increased in-class participation and reported less absenteeism.

Our continued partnership with Rise Against Hunger also sees us donating 101 000 meals this year, which represents 1 000 meals for every year since our company’s founding in 1918. This also happens to be the year in which former president and national icon Nelson Mandela was born. Through this partnership, we are sponsoring 315 000 meals valued at over R1 million and feeding more than 2500 young children and 1000 students at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. This collaboration helps us to bring hope and security to our country’s most vulnerable children.

In a country that is urgently in need of reducing poverty and inequality, a solid commitment to alleviating food insecurity can end the scourge of hunger. Oceana remains committed to contributing to eradicating poverty and ensuring that sustainable protein source is affordable and accessible to everyone.