Not everyone can afford an apple a day: stigma and food insecurity in rural South African young adults

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 14, issue 4, 2015 , pages: 361–369
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2015.1123162
Author(s): Rebecca Fielding-MillerDepartment of Medicine, Division of Global Public Health,, Kristin L DunkleSouth African Medical Research Council,, Daniel MurdockRollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Georgia


The HIV epidemic in South Africa has created a generation of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs). Little is known about the experiences of these “former” OVCs once they pass their 18th birthday. We conducted a qualitative study to understand the experiences of food insecurity for rural South African young adults. We conducted 20 in-depth interviews with 11 men and 9 women aged 18–25, and 2 focus group discussions. Many ate a single meal a day provided by the school feeding scheme or by friends. Despite this, nearly all participants emphasised the emotional and social, rather than the physical, tolls of food insecurity. These experiences of social shame predominantly stem from instrumental stigma — the perception within the broader community that because these former OVCs lived in relative poverty they would not be able to contribute to the web of community ties which function as a social safety net. Interventions designed to support former OVCs must focus on building social capital and supporting emotional resiliency in addition to providing material support.

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