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This paper was first published on the NIDS-CRAM website, where all papers are available for download at


Child hunger in South Africa declined after introduction of the child support grant. Despite the 2007/8 recession and slow economic growth since, child hunger more than halved from being reported in 35% of households in 2002 to 16% in 2018 in the General Household Survey. However, the pandemic reversed many of the gains. In newly collected data from Wave 1 of the NIDS-CRAM study, 15% of respondents reported that a child in their household had gone hungry in the week before they were interviewed in May or June. For the month of April, 47% of respondents reported that their household had run of money (the first month of the lockdown, before social relief measures were instituted). A much lower percentage, only 25%, reported that they had run out of money for food in the past year in 2018, a far less strict criterion. Loss of main income source between February and April, largely as a result of the lockdown, is strongly associated with a higher likelihood of child hunger in households. There is some shielding of children by adults: Child hunger is much lower than for other household members, and many households running out of money for food do not report child hunger. Drawing down savings, borrowing and depending on the generosity of others may have acted as a shield for child hunger in this initial lockdown period. This cannot continue indefinitely. A short analysis of social grants and school meals points to their importance for reducing child hunger, but also highlights their limitations at a time of great economic trauma.


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