Responding to Crisis in South African Township: Community innovation for nutritious food in the time of COVID-19

Creating opportunity to impact food security during a pandemic in a South African township

CommunityFoodservicePublic Health
Menu ChangePolicy ChangeProgramming
Food SafetyLack of InfrastructureLack of Support in the Professional Culture

At a Glance

  • This case study is drawn from a Blog Post created by Jo Hunter Adams, a research associate in the School of Public Health & African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and Jane Battersby, an associate Professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and was posted on the Nutrition Connect’s website during the global pandemic.
  • Adams and Battersby explain how emerging innovation within a community to help find a solution during a crisis can result in “building back better food systems and nutrition” by local people for local people.
  • Lessons Learnt: community kitchens can be sustainable both long and short-term and create resilience when including local farmers and growers and can be used as a sustainable safety net during times of crisis.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “at least 1 in 5 households were impact bay inadequate food supply and 1 in 3 children were stunted”. With the pandemic having a direct impact on food supply, whether due to lack of transportation or increase need from families, these numbers were bound to increase as the crisis continued. In Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, food security is prevalent and on the rise. In 2019, a survey was conducted in Masiphumelele and showed that 80-90% of residents had experienced food insecurity as well as 40% of residents had experienced hunger. Unfortunately, high rates of food insecurity can result in the increase of non-communicable disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and vulnerability to child stunting.

Innovation and Solution in Response to COVID_19 Pandemic in Masiphumelele

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it impacted the food supply and quality for many places around the world, including Masiphumelele. With many businesses, schools, and establishments shut down and advising everyone to stay at home, the need for more food in the home had increased and so did the rates of food insecurity. In response to the pandemic, the community came together, and with help from private donors, three approaches were put forth to help supply households with access to nutritious meals:

  • Vouchers
  • Food parcels
  • Community kitchens

Even with support from NGOs, both the vouchers and food parcels were only sustainable for short term use, especially for existing retailers. However, the establishment of small, decentralized kitchens have proven to be a more long-term sustainable safety net for the pandemic and are able to provide support and nutritious meals for households within the community.

Food for Thought
Are there any community kitchens in your community that can benefit from using local growers and farmers, volunteers, and support from local NGOs?
Why are food vouchers and parcels not sustainable?
In what ways do community kitchens contribute more sustainably to food systems?
A sustainable food system does not rely on emergency food aid (e.g., vouchers and food parcels) as a long term strategy. Explore the Learning Module: What are Sustainable Food Systems and Diets.

Contact Information
Nutrition Connect
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