IT is not about food for votes, but to combat constant hunger in many families as escalating joblessness and lower farm outputs combine to increase fears about food security in South Africa. Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant yesterday said escalating joblessness had lead to a growing food crisis in South Africa, with many families who could not afford to buy food. Sister paper City Press yesterday said that an increase in government’s food parcels to people was an attempt to gain votes for food in the upcoming national elections. The paper reported that food aid cost close to R419 million in the 2014 book year, almost double what it costs in non-election years. The amount increased by about R200 million in October in 2013 when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allocated the amount. Oliphant said people were struggling to afford food after hundreds of thousands of people had been left jobless in South Africa in the past two years. She said several natural disasters had added to the need for food assistance, which the national government had to supply. Oliphant said the Treasury did not give extra money for food aid, but simply allocated funds to an area in which it had deemed more aid was required. The Social Development Department had this year returned about R2 billion to the Treasury, money that was allocated to projects in February but was not used. The Treasury returned some of these funds to the department to use on food aid schemes. Oliphant illustrated the increasing need for food aid by telling how in 2011, pupils had died in the veld of hunger near Lichtenburg in the North West. She said the department had been working hard to stop such tragedies since then. South Africa’s official rate of unemployment is 25,6%. The unofficial broader rate according to Stats SA is however 37%, which means more than one in three South Africans cannot find a job. This year will see 500 000 matriculants entering the job market. President of AgriSA Johannes Möller said South Africa was no longer a net exporter of food. “Higher input costs is one of the main causes why South Africa must import increasing quantities of food. The higher costs also contributes to making food more expensive.” Möller said with the right incentives South Africa’s agricultural sector could double its output “without too much trouble”. Oliphant said the Department of Social Development also had to give aid on behalf of the national government in disaster areas including the Western Cape, because she said municipalities did not pay towards disaster aid. She said it was not accurate to talk about food parcels. “To say we supply food parcels is misleading. Aid comes in many forms. Sometimes it is food, sometimes it is money.” The United Nations’s World Food Programme said 842 million people across the world do not get enough food each day to be healthy. The main crisis areas are in South-East Asia.