For a number of previously disadvantaged communities, the bigger the belly the wealthier an individual is a common perception.
This came out in several interviews with taxi drivers in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape. The informal research was aimed at finding out about general eating habits and found that overweight people were not seen as unhealthy but rather living a good life.
Taxi owner Xolile Ndlala (43) said his upbringing was difficult as he depended on his single mother to put food on the table for him and his siblings.
“My upbringing was unpleasant. I know how it feels to go to bed with an empty stomach. As a boy there times where I would share a bird that I caught with my siblings. Now that I am stable financially, I am able to eat whatever food I feel like. Because I am always busy in the early morning I eat soft porridge, and then around 10am I buy a full meal from the ladies who cook near the taxi rank. My favourite is energy drinks as they keep me going throughout the day, and for lunch I usually eat braai meat with a group of others who are around,” Ndlala said.
The nearby Langa Senior Secondary School in Flagstaff is a beneficiary of the Department of Education’s National School Nutrition Programme. Yet despite the feeding scheme’s offerings, school pupils generally prefer to buy fat cakes (amagwinya) from nearby shops, usually eaten with a sausage or polony and a can of coke.
No time to prepare decent meals
A 15-year-old grade 11 learner who shares a rented room with her sister says because they are preparing for their year-end examinations and attend extra classes they usually don’t have time to prepare decent meals.
“We attend classes from 7am to 3pm daily, then attend extra classes from 4pm to 7pm. We only buy bread with eggs as it is a convenient and easy to make a meal. When we find time we usually cook rice and tinned fish. The only time we eat proper food with vegetables is when we visit home on weekends,” she said.
Lindile Ndayi, the Non Communicable Diseases Manager at the Qaukeni Local Clinic, said the eating patterns of the local communities were generally extremely unhealthy and pose a serious threat to their health and well-being over the long term.
“We encourage our patients to live a healthy lifestyle by exercising and getting their weight checked at local clinics. However, we have also noticed that our communities do not like visiting health care centres when they are not sick. They choose to avoid going for health checks due to long queues at public health care centres.”