January is traditionally known as the hungry season, as families often face a cash drought between mid-December salaries and the first paycheque of the New Year. However, for many South Africans, the hungry season is likely to be dire this year, as rising food prices could spell disaster for vulnerable households, warns Potatoes South Africa (Potatoes SA) CEO Willie Jacobs.

“Skyrocketing fuel prices, electricity tariff hikes, increased input costs, and heavy rainfalls in the summer season have significantly driven up the costs of food production. This translate into higher food prices and rising costs of living for already overburdened families,” he notes.

According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), the price of 93 unleaded petrol inland rose over 41% in 2021, reaching new highs in December of over R20/ℓ. Meanwhile, electricity prices surged 15,06% in 2021, and are likely to rise by double digit figures again in 2022. In combination with various other factors, this meant that Consumer Price Index (CPI) food inflation measured at 5,5% in November last year.

“Seen against the backdrop of continuously rising unemployment levels and the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, the 2022 January cash crunch could be particularly desperate, aggravating food insecurity and leaving many households living from hand to mouth.”

A plea for help

Potatoes SA has provided hunger-busting recipes for stretching budgets a little further. The organisation is also calling on all South Africans to extend a helping hand by donating potatoes and other food essentials by joining its #PassThePotato campaign this January. This initiative aims to encourage South Africans to donate potatoes to those in need, and to challenge friends and family members on social media to do the same using #PassThePotato.

“As we begin the New Year, we are encouraging all South Africans to continue in the spirit of giving for just a little longer, and to take urgent action to support the poor and needy,” explains Jacobs. “Notably, potatoes offer an important source of complex carbohydrates for increasing feelings of satiety and providing sustained energy, making them the perfect gift for households facing issues of hunger.”

Leading from the front, the employees of the organisation have already donated tons of potatoes to various charitable organisations including The Village Safe Haven in Sandton and the Lutheran Church in Alexandra, which offers a feeding scheme for adults and children. Following suit, industry stakeholders have also joined hands to #PassThePotato, thereby triggering a wave of further donations answering the call.

Hunger-busting heroes

Potatoes’ cost-effectiveness, taste, versatility, and unique nutritional benefits make them the perfect solution for intelligently curbing hunger, notes Jacobs.

Notably, a 7kg bag of potatoes offers almost 40 servings of 180g each, which helps budgets stretch a little further. Additionally, when cooked correctly with the skins on, potatoes are nutrient powerhouses, packed with important vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin C, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, copper, iodine, iron, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and calcium – all of which play a crucial role in optimising overall health. Finally, potatoes offer significant volume and fibre, keeping stomachs feeling fuller for longer and preventing individuals from needing to eat as much and as often.

“So, if you are lucky enough to not feel the effects of Janu-worry this month, please don’t forget about those who are not as fortunate, and remember to pass the potato,” Jacobs concludes.

Any South Africans seeking hunger-busting recipes for January, can further access a wide range of budget-friendly potato dishes courtesy of Potatoes SA here. For more details on how to join the #PassThePotato movement click here. – Press release, Potatoes SA