Potatoes carry the potential to make a difference

May 27, 2015
Potatoes carry the potential to make a difference

According to the World Food Bank, there are 11 million South Africans who are living in extreme poverty and as a result, go to bed hungry every single day. Further reports reveal that hunger kills more people than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined. In South Africa, where the triple threat issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality continue to tarnish the dignity of many peoples’ lives, the observance of World Hunger Day is of paramount importance.

“No one South African should go to bed hungry. For as long as there are people who, on a daily basis, are burdened with the concern of where their next meal is going to come from, how can we claim to be truly liberated?” says Immaculate Zinde, Manager, Product Promotions, Potatoes South Africa (PSA).

The potato industry is alarmed by these statistics and has pledged to show their support for the hungry and poor of South Africa by way of donating R10 000 to the Africa Children Feeding Scheme in Alexandra, Johannesburg. In the true spirit of making a difference and as so eloquently captured in the phrase: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”, on 28 May 2015, Potatoes South Africa will in addition to donating money, also partner with Anna Montali, South Africa’s leading foodie, journalist, recipe developer and food stylist, who will demonstrate at the feeding scheme the value of incorporating potatoes into a balanced, nutrient dense and wholesome meal.

Claire Julsing Strydom, who is registered with the HPCSA and the American Nutrition and Dietetic Academy and is the current President for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, has volunteered her time to educate, inform and impart nutritional information that is critical in curbing food insecurity.

“The value of the potato is not only disregarded but highly underestimated. Potatoes remain one of the most affordable and accessible vegetables and starch on the South African market. This is in line with two of the Food Based Dietary Guidelines of South Africa as prescribed by the Department of Health which state that South Africans should:

  • “Make starchy foods part of most meals”: a food-based dietary guideline for South Africa
  • “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day”: a food-based dietary guideline for South Africa

“When prepared in a healthy manner, potatoes provide individuals with nutrients while keeping them fuller for longer,” says Zinde. Not only are potatoes nutritious, affordable, and socially acceptable, potatoes are already an integral part of the global food system.  They are the world’s number one non-grain food commodity with the primary potato industry in South Africa contributing a substantial R3.6 billion to the South African economy.

“While we are mindful of the fact that there are still misconceptions around potato consumption as it relates to nutrition and health, our research shows that the average annual compounded growth rate in the per capita consumption of potatoes in South Africa is between two and three percent. Bottom line – potatoes are still a very important part of the South African shopping basket,” says Potatoes South Africa CEO, Dr André Jooste.

Within the horticulture sector, potatoes contribute 13 percent of the gross value, making them the third biggest in the sector after deciduous and tropical fruits, while it boasts as the fifth biggest product in the agricultural sector – excluding livestock.

“The primary industry provides between 60 000 and 80 000 casual and permanent jobs annually, affording people the opportunity to earn a living, which provides the opportunity to feed their families,” says Jooste.

To many South Africans, a potato is a vegetable and starch food on a plate. To just over 640 of South African potato farmers and farm workers, it is a vital source of income.  For many nutritionists it is a product that must form part and parcel of a nutrient-dense and balanced diet.  For PSA employees it is a food crop that can address the triple threat issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

PSA is also initiating the Hunger Bust Campaign (#HBC) in observance of World Hunger Day. The #HBC challenges South African retail, fresh produce markets, processing companies and any interested organisation to match or better PSA’s donation by pledging monetary and other support to a charity organisation of its choice. The campaign will be launched on 28 May and end on World Food Day, 16 October 2015.

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