Improving student well-being through collaborative food provisioning initiatives

More than 64% of students on UFS campuses are collectively challenged by food insecurity.

According to Annelize Visagie, Head of the Food Environment Office in the Division of Student Affairs at the UFS, food insecurity within higher education institutions is not a new phenomenon. “Students use different coping mechanisms to manage, with 40,6% of students using fasting as an excuse to friends for not having food, 60% of students skip meals because they do not have enough money, and 43,2% of students are too ashamed to ask for help.”

Through the collaborative efforts of various food projects on the UFS campuses, which include the private sector, staff and students, the well-being and success of students can be improved. The projects ensure that no students need to go hungry, and that students reach their full potential in the long term, as they complete their studies successfully.

In addition to this, the university initiated the Food Environment Strategy. This strategy focuses on creating a health-promoting food environment, where students and staff can make informed decisions on food and nutrition.

A focus on recent food security projects

  1. Vegetable Tunnel Project
    Members of the UFS Food Environment Project collaborated to implement a vegetable production and training programme to address the challenge of food insecurity on UFS campuses and beyond. Through this initiative, 350 students have been trained to date. Tiger Brands and the non-profit organisation, Siyakhana Growth and Development, financed the construction of the two tunnels and 40 wooden crop boxes on the Bloemfontein Campus. The UFS team managing the Food Environment Project, included Prof Johan van Niekerk, Dr JW Swanepoel, and Ms Carien Denner from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE). They were supported by Ms Karen Scheepers and Mrs Annelize Visagie from the Food Environment Office. Prof Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa of Siyakhana Food Gardens assisted with the training of the students and consultation throughout the project.
  2. Phased training programme
    Phase 1: Training of residence committee members from all on- and off-campus student communities in civic and social-responsibility portfolios, as well as civic and social-responsibility student associations, on the preparation and planting of the first vegetable seedlings and seeds.
    Phase 2: Taking care of vegetables by irrigating and pulling out of the weeds.
    Phase 3: Harvesting. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, students unfortunately had to leave campus, but did manage to harvest an estimated 6 kg of spinach that supplemented 50 student meals during this time.

COVID-19 lockdown challenges also created opportunity

During lockdown, staff from Sustainable Agriculture, Kovsie Act, the UFS Food Bank, and residence heads managed the harvest. This was donated to Towers of Hope and the ROC Foundation, which provide daily community meals. The No Student Hungry programme at the UFS continues to assist students by means of weekly food allowances, ensuring continuity with their online studies.

Recently, the UFS Food Environment Office, Tiger Brands, and the Total Service Station in Brandwag – with the help of volunteer students and UFS staff – were able to assist 650 students with food parcels. The Food Environment Office continues to work with senior management at the UFS Qwaqwa and South campuses to distribute food parcels to students at these institutions.

No Student Hungry programme (NSH)
The No Student Hungry (NSH) programme provides food to food-insecure students through modest food allowances and daily access to one balanced meal. Students can focus on their studies without worrying about their next meal.

By supporting the No Student Hungry Bursary programme, patrons enable inspiring young leaders to change the reality they live in, and positively impact the future. We invite you to become part of a programme that prioritises educated leaders, economic growth, and high standards of social welfare.

For additional information, please visit the donation page or E: simpsonvz@ufs.ac.za.

Food Tunnel

Improving student well-being through collaborative food provisioning initiatives.

Food Tunnel preparation

UFS students and staff working together to improve student well-being.

AlumNews 01-2020

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