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26 February 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Vegetable tunnels
Two vegetable tunnels were recently established on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus to contribute to the fight against food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a problem on university campuses worldwide. The three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) are not exempt from this plight. Research findings indicate that more than 64% of students at the university go through periods of hunger.

Annelize Visagie, , from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading the Food Environment Office at the UFS, confirms that food insecurity at higher education institutions is not a new phenomenon.

In a study with first-year students as focus, Visagie found that academic performance declines and coping mechanisms increase as the severity of food insecurity increases.

“Students use different coping mechanisms, with an alarming percentage of students (40,6%) using fasting as an excuse to friends for not having food, 60% of students skipping meals because they do not have enough money, and 43,2% of students being too embarrassed to ask for help.”

Visagie states that various factors contribute to this alarming scenario, with the main reason being that the majority of students come from impoverished economic and social circumstances. This suggests that although students receive NSFAS funding or any other bursary, it is not a guarantee that they are food secure.

Focus on student wellbeing
Aligning with the UFS strategic goal of improving student success and wellbeing, UFS staff is working hard to implement initiatives and obtain sponsorships and food donations to ensure that students do not go hungry.

Members of the university’s Food Environment Project, Drs Johan van Niekerk and JW Swanepoel from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE), and Karen Scheepers from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading KovsieAct partnered to move the existing vegetable tunnels on the UFS experimental farm to the Bloemfontein Campus.

The construction of the tunnels and boxes was financed by Tiger Brands. Professor Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa who are involved with the Siyakhana Food Gardens, assisted with the training of students and consultation throughout the project.

The two tunnels (30 m x 10 m each) are covered with netting, and two water tanks with pumps are fitted to provide the necessary irrigation.

Vegetables add value
Dr Swanepoel explains: “In each tunnel there are 20 raised wooden boxes. Each residence received one box where they planted one type of vegetable crop, including Swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, beet, kale, and broccoli.”

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, received the necessary training to plant vegetables.

The vegetables were planted in mid-February and the first harvest is expected around mid-April.

This initiative, which will help students in the near future to keep the hunger pangs at bay in a healthy way, adds to the existing No Student Hungry programme. Visagie says it is important for the university to assist students in making healthy choices and to educate them on decisions to secure nutritional food for themselves.

In addition, the university also received food parcels from Rise Against Hunger, together with donations from organisations such as Gift of the Givers – providing 200 food parcels to students on the Qwaqwa Campus, and the recent donation from Tiger Brands – providing 500 food parcels to students.

News Archive

International success for UFS Professor in Japan
2016-12-07

Description: Professor Solomon in Japan  Tags: Professor Solomon in Japan  

Prof Hussein Solomon from the UFS was recently
appointed as Visiting Professor at Osaka University
in Japan.
Photo: Charl Devenish

He has been involved with the Osaka University for several years, but Prof Hussein Solomon’s recent appointment as Visiting Professor will allow the University of the Free State (UFS) and Osaka to work on long-term issues.

Kovsie academics hold their own internationally

His appointment at the university in Japan came as no surprise as he is a regular teacher to students and leader of seminars to staff. According to Prof Solomon, Senior Professor at the Department of Political Studies and Governance at the UFS, Kovsie academics can hold their own internationally.

The Faculty of Humanities has a memorandum of understanding with Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), which consists of Political Science, Public Administration, Law and Economics at Osaka University.

Enhancing the universities’ relationship

“I have been involved with Osaka since 2007, initially with their Global Collaboration Center (GLOCOL), focusing on conflict resolution, and then later with OSIPP.”

Although Prof Solomon has been working with Osaka for a while, his appointment will enhance the relationship between the universities.

“We have been cooperating with Osaka for some time, hosting annual conferences, engaging in staff and student exchanges, as well as the establishment of the international centre. This appointment allows us to work on longer-term issues allowing us to chase funding together and deepen our existing linkages,” he says.

UFS doctoral students being jointly supervised

Prof Solomon says that he would like to see the doctoral students from the UFS being jointly supervised. “We already have one of our doctorial students, Alta Vermeulen, who is being co-supervised between myself and Prof Virgil Hawkins from Osaka,” he says.

Prof Solomon was also recently appointed to the board of flagship journal, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

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