Household food insecurity, rapid food price inflation and the economic downturn in South Africa
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Has the dramatic rise in food price inflation between 2007 and 2009 and the 2008-2009 economic downturn affected experiences of household hunger in South Africa? Two intersecting livelihood shocks rapid food price inflation and the global economic downturn affected virtually all South Africans in 2008. The 2008 General Household Survey shows a rise in household experiences of hunger in the order of 2-3 percentage points and female-headed households suffered more than male-headed households. In the first year of the crises, female-headed households substantially raised the amount of money spend on food and the share of food expenditure in their total spending basket dramatically increased. This suggests that households were switching larger portions of their total household spending towards food signalling a coping strategy to counter a severe livelihood shock. Women-headed households living in traditional huts in predominantly rural provinces of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal experienced the sharpest rise in hunger. Even households dependent on salaries and wages reported increasing experiences of moderate hunger. The policy implication is that gender-based targeting in food security policies must incorporate these additional determinants if they are to effectively address transitory food insecurity induced by similar livelihood shocks.