Dr Stephen Devereux, Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC says hunger levels among students are higher than in the general population and this could be affecting drop out rates.
He says it's a myth that if you can afford to go to university then you can afford not to go hungry. The fact is that these students have left home and they are not yet working and most of them have borrowed money from banks and NSFAS, says Devereux.
They are struggling just to get their basic needs and they survive on very small bursaries or grants and if they go hungry for a very long long time, in the long run they might benefit from higher income when they leave university, but this period of being at university is actually a highly insecure period of their lives.— Dr Stephen Devereux, Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC
Devereux says more than 30% of students are food insecure compared with 26% of the population and the strongest predictor among students is related to race.
At the University of Free State, it was found that 24% of white students were food insecure but as high as 79% of African students were food insecure. This means that all black students at the university are in fact going hungry.— Dr Stephen Devereux, Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC
Devereux outlined the consequences of food insecurity on poor academic performances which lead to drop out, depression and suicidal ideation and mental health in general.
He says many students respond to this by looking for part time jobs which in turn affects their academic performances.
Universities have put plans in place to change the situation, giving students an opportunity to focus on their studies and not worry much about food.
There's the Food Bank at Wits University that provides 2‚500 students with a monthly food pack and the Stop Hunger Now initiative at the University of Johannesburg that provides 7‚000 meals a week.
To hear the rest of the conversation, listen below: