The Nourished Child: An Exhibition

All images by Samantha Reinders for The Nourished Child project.

Welcome to this exhibition of photos and words from the Nourished Child Project.

The Nourished Child Project is a BBSRC-funded project led by researchers from City University, London, the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

The project’s aim is to define and communicate what a systems approach to improving the quality of diets among children under 5 and women of childbearing age would look like in urban settings to address the double burden of malnutrition, and works in Masiphumelele, Cape Town and Zweletemba, Worcester.

The exhibition below draws on photos from Samantha Reinders and quotes from research participants. (Download the exhibition catalogue by clicking the image at the end of the post or here)

The exhibition also provides information on what existing government policies, programmes and initiatives shape the experiences of research participants and where opportunities for interventions lie.

The Road to Health
“The Road to Health card is very important. When you are at the hospital to give birth and have your baby when the nurse gives you this card they sits down with you and explain the card to you and complete the card with the child’s name. This card guides you hence the child is still small and growing on that card you are told what to feed the child and also immunizations that you have to get for the child and you are told when you should go. The nurse gives you a letter when you have been discharged from the hospital to go to the nearest clinic to you and you have to take the card with you when you go. Also at the clinic they give you further instructions about the importance of the card. The growth of the child is recorded on that card If you did not go to the clinic they will know it will show that you did not come on a certain date, you skipped. It also shows that it’s important that you attend the clinic because as the child grows they need their injections, and how you feed them and how to take care for the child all of that is important.”
Breastfeeding vs. Formula
“What I mean is, for example in baby foods. They tell you the solids are not good for the child. Four months by the time and the child is already on solids. That happened with my first born with my second born I was older by that time. So they will tell you that you must give the child solids because the child does not sleep, must give the child formula because the baby does not sleep. When you get to the clinic don’t tell the nurses that you are feeding the child, don’t tell the nurse. And on that day the child must not get the solids that is what I mean. Like now if I say I have a four months old baby now. I won’t pack solids for them or I will give before I go Breastfeeding v. Formula to the clinic and they have already eaten for the day. So I would actually pretend that they have not eaten. Cause the nurses will be asking if the child has eaten. I will say no tis is a normal weight, baby weight. Whereas the influence you get it from home. That what I got for my first born. And when it comes to formula my mom just rocked up with formula without consulting me about not being safe for the child breast feeding and all of that if that feeding is okay for the child. I am getting education from my pregnancy that breastfeeding is the best for the child. Even in books and everything. We are given there at the clinic booklets and everything. You are told that breastfeeding is best for the child. Even the formula they give you, my mom gave me its Lactogen. Even the formula says breast-feeding is best for the child. But when your mom advises because she is the one who knows better what you go through. My mom knows better I have to actually take whatever it is she gives me. She is the one who actually helps me with the child. So I feel like it’s important I listen to her more than anything else. So that is what I went through. And my second baby, the two-year-old. Things were a bit different I would voice out a little bit and tell them I am not comfortable with this. But at times I had a lot of complications with my pregnancy and giving birth and my breast-feeding. So within a week she had to take formula. But I stood my ground she took formula until she was six months., from six months that is when I introduced the solid foods. Like the porridge and cereals for the child.”
Big shop takeaways
Participant 1: “I would normally buy Snoek Parcel after everything. Buy groceries, paying account, insurance, buying electricity then I could treat my family with Snoek Parcel.”
Participant 2: “I buy snoek parcel with change after I’m done shopping then I know that we won’t cook cause we came back late from town.” Participant 3: “…for example if you busy doing your shopping and then you get hungry you can buy them sit down and eat and they are also affordable. But not all the time we must eat them cause they are unhealthy like Snoek Parcel. If you eat Snoek Parcel too much you might get sicknesses like high blood cz they dnt have that much nutrients.”
“I would say it’s water, because even the water when the pipes are closed and there’s no water supply for those hours then you can’t cook. It’s better when you have the instant. Maybe during the day when there is no water, and then you can make instant porridge with milk. But let’s say during the day and there is no purity then you can’t even cook something because you have to boil it, and you need water in order to boil. So I would say water would be an issue for me. But as I say that, I ensure most of the time that I do have those 6 rand 5 litre bottles in order to bridge that gap for the time being.”
“The only thing we can use, guys, is the paraffin stove, gas stove. But we are not safe because we have kids and they might play with the paraffin stove and they will get burnt. Specially the gas, it is very dangerous the kids can switch it on and sometimes you won’t know when it’s on. That is why I’m saying it’s dangerous. But then we don’t have a choice because we don’t have electricity. And we can’t even do anything because we don’t own any box. And sometimes there would be load shedding without any notice. So we don’t have a choice but to use the paraffin and the gas.”
“Sanitation. People I do not have a problem when it comes to sanitation in my property. But my problems are the drains on the streets. The municipality I think they do not do their own job they do not clean the drains until they are blocked and when its blocked they take 2 to 3 days to come and clean it up and it affects our children because our children go and play with that dirty water unknowingly because if you tell your child not to play with that water they will still go and play because they saw other children playing with that water and they play. That is why our children get sick they get the diseases from that dirty water. For us people let us please not throw food on the drains, dirty stuff, don’t abort children and put them on the drains and stuff them down there because also that makes the drains to block. Please people let us teach ourselves to behave. Thank you.”
“The only thing for me that is a challenge here at informal settlements is one thing. When it has rained the child has to stay in bed we stay in bed and it’s difficult for the child to play. When I need to go to the table to cook I have to use crates to go because the water comes inside the house and I cannot not use electricity to cook because the house is wet so I use paraffin to cook so that we can eat, that is our situation during winter. I have to wear gumboots (rain boots) when I want to go outside and people will be looking at you funny but we know we have a situation of water inside the houses. You see now winter is going to start but I am not worried this year because had to do a special floor with pallets so this winter I am safe. I had to make a plan.”
“We have bigger cupboards at home for bulk buying staple foods, vegetable and fruit racks to store our fruit and veggies. The only problem we have is a mice infestation because of the litter that is being dumped across the road (we live opposite the taxi rank) sometimes some of our foods, especially cereal and noodles are eaten/destroyed by mice and we end up having to throw the whole packet away. We live in a block of flats, but they can still enter through the roof.”
Big shops and grants
Participant 1: “Let’s say there is a special at shoprite they extend the days up until the end of the grant. So, they ensure from month end up until the days where the grant is received, we do get those specials.”
Participant 2: “On my side i first look on the special paper before from both of those shop then a do a list if on Shoprite a wl go and buy what and pick and pay also at food lovers.”
Participant 3: “Yes specials are important because we buy food in bulk so it can last till end of the month and we see the specials on tv and sometimes in Facebook cz they do advertise their specials on Facebook.”
Participant 1: “Good morning, what I can induce from this picture is that there isn’t any proper hygiene processing. The cabbage is being cut on top of a newspaper. Even the person that’s preparing this isn’t wearing any gloves and I’m certain his hands haven’t been washed. This is typically why I don’t buy and ready/handled food at Baraka stores (foreign owned spaza stores) because they don’t care much about cleanliness.” Participant 2: “Ever since the Barakas came into Masiphumelele, they have far played a crucial role in our community (though people or “we” get sceptical of their products because they are low in the production level. Usually cheaper and unusual products we have never been exposed to… They give food in credit, as in the picture they make things easier by creating halves for lower prices. Half of loaf of bread, half of the cabbage, single nappies for R4/R5, slices of polony or cheese at a lower price, beef stock cube for R1. The cheap nappies (brands we don’t know but very affordable and user friendly). A packet of 20 for R40. The 10kg combos, rice, sugar, mealie meal, flour.”
Diet over a month
“I think for everybody the meals changes as month goes by. At the beginning of the month we eat very nice, meaty meals almost, maybe four or five times in a week time. And then when the month goes there in the middle of the month things are getting, things are getting tougher, so we change to meals that are easier like pilchards, sausages, chicken livers, chicken hearts. And then when it’s the end, month end when you don’t have nothing meaty, you eat things like “mphokoqo”, we eat “tappel rice,” we say its tappel rice because its rice mixed with potatoes, we eat those things. We also make steam bread. We put them in the cups because there is no meat and you do that with cabbage. You put your veggies and you put cabbage because cabbage makes it very nice when there is no meat, cabbage makes it very, very nice. You put your veggies and then you put your dough in the cups, in the same pot and you cook your staff, yeah meals go according to the state of the month, yes.”
“When it comes to braai, I love braai meat. I love it a lot and I love the meat with fat… Compared to other braai places, she is the best. There is a braai place next to my house but even on a rainy day, I do not even think of going to the close by braai place I rather go to her shack and find shelter there because her meat is nice it sells itself and it is very tasty in the mouth and it is a lot… The meat there is nice. Every time you get good service, there is not day without good service.”
“The vetkoek places are mostly loved by the children. They love buying, more especially when they are coming from school and there is no cooked food and you just buy a vetkoek for them.”
Kids buying sweets
“The thing is those children of ours, they don’t want to be sent to the shop. So, for them to go fast and come back quick, you must say this one is for you – you buy chips or whatever you want, but this one is for bread, then they will go. If you don’t give them anything – even my younger child – I couldn’t send her because she will buy sweets with all my money. She will come back with lots of chips, lots of sweets, and then where is the bread that I sent you for? She doesn’t know anything.”
Fruit and Veg vendor
Participant 1: “We usually buy from the vendor’s when we’re running short on supplies or money because they’re very cheap and also they’re veggies are always fresh and clean.”
Participant 2: “I do buy from them some times when I see it’s fresh veggies and I think it’s not a problem to buy from them because you are going to wash your veggies thoroughly but at times you see it slappy tired. As I see the picture it looks fresh and good looking that’s when I buy it especial Spinach, cabbage, sweet potato, green beans. l like it. My baby like sweet potato too much.”
Participant 3: “[I don’t buy] all the time because the fruit n Veg by street vendors is exposed to the Sun from morning till afternoon and they hardly sell everything in one day so they comeback the next day n sit with the same fruit n Veg the whole day.”
Creche and food parcels (Zweletemba)
Researcher: “Did you still pay creche fees during lock down? Did everyone at the creche get food or only if you had kept up with payment?” Participant 1: “I did not pay and they would call even though you not paying.”
Participant 2: “And the food parcels had everything we needed. E.g Samp, peanut butter, ace pap, tinned fish, spaghetti and lot of other things… And since it was lockdown and both my boys were at home things were a bit hard because the older one wanted everything so the food parcels really made a difference.”
“Also, with the food that is given to the children at cr che it’s the right food. Because they cook for them that rice that has already vegetables in it. They also cook porridge for them sometimes they cook noodles for them. In addition, what I like about the cr che is that there is care, any cr che they have care. Because when your child does not have fruit, some of the parents do not always have the money to buy fruit but because the child is at cr che it does not mean it’s going to show that the child did not have fruit or comes from a poor home. The teachers have a way of taking care of that. If there is an apple, they would share that apple with that child so that child can also eat fruit, you see. What I like about other cr ches they have a rule that you are not allowed to bring chips and the children also know that it’s not allowed to bring chips at school.”
Community kitchens
Participant 1: “They really helped us these people who were cooking during that time of Covid. In our street they were cooking Monday until Friday and also giving out food parcels sometimes.”
Participant 2: “Each street gets food from Living Hope (NGO working in Masiphumelele) they get from sponsors and other kitchens they have their own sponsors, so they give you the food each kitchen u have 5 ladies you cook at your home with your electricity or gas with your own pots and cook for the people.”
Participant 1: “I never experienced any problems with registering for the SASSA grant, I use the gold card so I can collect my grant at any atm or retail stores. The grant has played a major [role] in supporting our kids in terms of food, we can buy food that is healthy as well as spoil them a bit when necessary, and the extra 500rands that we received during last year played a very significant role in how we buy for our kids.”
Participant 2: “After I completed my application for the Grant I had to wait for an additional month before getting paid and the money was doubled Instead of receiving 440rand I received 752rand and I withdraw the money at any ATM and I was able to buy food and nappies for my daughter but after the 500rand extra stopped I only afforded to buy 1 packet of nappies and some food but it was not enough for a month and my mother helps me.”
Lunchtime meals
“This is a lunch time meal in Zweletemba. For lunch the adults and older children normally ate leftovers from the previous night. The younger kids usually had two minute noodles – preferred by the kids and cheap and accessible for the family. The older kids help the younger kid by preparing the noodles. The salt and Aromat were used on both the leftovers and the noodles.”
“Many of the participants in the project had lost their employment within one month of the first covid lockdown. While they noted that the temporary supplementation of the Child Support Grant was appreciated, most were still really struggling to meet their needs. In Zweletemba many of the creches had been able to provide food parcels for the entire family. In Masi, food parcels for children only were provided by a few creches. Covid amplified concerns about water and sanitation issues within the communities.”
YouTube video
In South Africa, malnutrition is a growing concern, affecting individuals, communities, and the economy. Many young children face a double burden of malnutrition – undernutrition and obesity – making it difficult for them to grow and reach their full potential. Join us as we take a look at a day in the life of 4-year old Nosipho to see what she eats and what we can do together to ensure she has access to good nutrition daily.