South Africa: Good for Hunger, Bad for Health? Spaza Shops and Food Vendors Proliferate Outside Schools

Fresh spices and fruits on display at a market in Abuja, Nigeria

In March 2020, the Department of Basic Education pulled the plug on school tuck shops to limit the spread of Covid-19. Instead, it has encouraged informal vendors to set up shop outside school premises where there is no control over what is being sold to pupils.

In the past, school tuck shops used to be a standard feature of many schools, the place where many kids would go at break and lunch to quench hunger and thirst. However, school tuck shops have not been allowed to operate since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic after the National Department of Basic Education (DBE) issued a directive to close them. This will only be lifted when the virus is contained.

Unfortunately, the vacuum created has allowed spaza shops and mobile food vendors to fill the gap and sell unhealthy junk food cheaply to pupils. This has made it virtually impossible to regulate what food is being sold to, and consumed by, children during school hours.

Food specialities offered by Elias Guambe, a food vendor outside Thaba Jabula Secondary School. (Photo by Michelle Banda)

In 2014 the DBE had developed guidelines for tuck shop operators which:

Aimed to...

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