International Office launches food drive to raise awareness about nutrition in Africa

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The library wall, painted to raise awareness about nutrition
The library wall, painted to raise awareness about nutrition

As part of Africa Month this May, the Rhodes University International Office has been hosting several activities during its International Week, running from 22 to 28 May. The Office has been raising awareness about nutrition and food security, the African Union’s theme for 2022, through a Makhanda-wide collaborative food drive.

Africa Month commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which has since become the African Union (AU).

“2022 is the year of nutrition: Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition & Food security on the African Continent.” – African Union

“Food security is an increasing concern for our local community here in Makhanda. Dr. Lausanne Olvitt, from the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC), advised that in 2019, there were eight active community kitchens in Makhanda. This number has increased to more than 25 community kitchens, all struggling to support hungry people in their neighbourhoods,” explained Orla Quinlan, Director of Internationalisation at Rhodes University.

Connecting the continental theme of ‘nutrition’ with the national rise of food insecurity, the International Office and the Environmental Learning Centre (ELRC), in collaboration with the Makhanda Circle of Unity, have embarked on a food drive to support local initiatives to ensure children receive adequate nutrition.

The Food Drive was launched on Africa Day (25 May) and will continue for the rest of the month (see collection points below).

Makhanda’s community kitchens are:

  • Informal kitchens providing free basic meals without prejudice to people in need.
  • Run mainly by women often living in poverty themselves, who refuse to let children and impoverished people in their neighbourhoods go hungry.
  • Dependent on volunteers and donations of food and money
  • Primarily supporting children under 14 years.

 In South Africa, the Household Affordability Index tracks monthly food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Springbok. Some of the alarming recent findings include:

  • The ‘food basket’ is based on food that women living in a seven-member household typically try to secure each month.
  • There was a staggering 38% increase in typical South African food costs between March 2020 and March 2022.
  • Another spike is predicted for the rest of 2022 as the conflict in Ukraine pushes up wheat and fuel prices, leading to global food shortages and ESKOM electricity costs increase.
  • Wages and social grants have not kept up with this rapid increase in the cost of food.
  • This means that more and more people are hungry.
  • For more info from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, visit

According to Quinlan, the type of internationalisation that any institution engages with is very contextually specific. “We are located on the African continent; the majority of our international students come from the SADC region and the rest of Africa. We know that food insecurity is an increasing issue for many South Africans and for our own local population in Makhanda, where Rhodes University is situated.

With this food drive, said Quinlan, they hope to contribute to increasing awareness of food insecurity in Makhanda and alert the University community to the local voluntary initiatives.

“In driving an appropriate internationalisation for our unique context, we want to enhance everything we do in terms of Research, Teaching and Learning and Community Engagement with endeavours that continually connect the local, the Continental and global concerns and vice versa,” Quinlan stated.

To further embrace the spirit of Africa Month, several parallel initiatives have been taking place on campus this week, including African flags and banners displayed at the library, a painted mural highlighting the AU theme, and various awareness-raising videos and graphics playing on our dining hall screens until the end of the month.

The Rhodes University Student Representative Council (SRC) has been assisting in raising awareness and engaging students with cupcakes with purple frosting in a special ‘Purple Thursday Internationalisation’ event.


The Food Drive drop-off/collection points for non-perishable items on campus include: 

  1. Alumni house,
  2. International Office in Eden Grove,
  3. Library,
  4. Entrance to the Main Admin building,
  5. SRC office in the Steve Biko building,
  6. Community Engagement Office.


For financial donations, please find the details below as provided by the Makhanda Circle of Unity:

Makhanda Circle of Unity NPO,

Bank: FNB,

Account number: 62921625763;

Branch Code: 210717

Reference: Food security