Plates4days supports about 500 UJ students per month, but some students say they are unaware of the programme.

The Plates4days initiative was re-launched at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Soweto campus, on Friday, February 28, to celebrate the sponsor’s association with the institution.

The programme, sponsored by Tiger Brands, hands out monthly food parcels with the aim of tackling food insecurity among South African university students. The programme, which has been assisting UJ, Wits and other South African universities since 2017, currently supports 500 UJ students and 1386 Wits students.

Samkelisiwe Dlalisa, the group account director of Tiger Brands, the programme was re-launched in order to, “make the public, students as well as government aware of the program in the hopes of taking it further with more partnerships and alerting students in need of the program”. According to An-Li Theron, the acting senior manager of UJ’s fundraising and development department, “30% of students don’t have food security”. For this reason, UJ’s food support schemes are crucial for students.

Kanyisa Ndyondya, Tiger Brands’ group media and PR manager, said the parcels include a variety of foods including maize meal, meat and mixed vegetables.

Zakhele Mtsali, second year Bachelor in Education (UJ), and current beneficiary of the Plates4days programme, praised the initiative saying, “It was difficult because sometimes I would attend my classes without having a meal in the morning and now, things changed. I was able to go and collect food at the Food Bank and have something to eat”. The UJ food bank is an inventory of food donated to the institution as well as food grown and collected from the UJ food garden.

Despite the re-launch, which involved a number of speakers, a number of UJ students said they were unaware of the programme.  Mbali Nabena, third year Bachelor of Education (UJ), says that even though she is someone who has struggled with food insecurity in the past, she was unaware of Plates4days.

Mathapelo Mngomezulu, a first year Bachelor of Arts student at UJ, said the university should make a more conscious effort to publicise the programme to students. “UJ should make it more public so more people know about it”, Mngomezulu said.

UJ students can contact the student affairs department to access parcels through the Plates4days programme.

FEATURED IMAGE: University of Johannesburg students pictured during a lunch break on the lawns. Photo: Catia De Castro.