Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Anne M. Knupfer

Committee Chair

Anne M. Knupfer

Committee Member 1

Leonard Harris

Committee Member 2

Harry Targ

Committee Member 3

Lisa Merriweather


People's stories are powerful means of explaining their realities, for their narratives reveal what meanings they make of the situations they are living, how they face these situations and what strategies they formulate to overcome them. Their meaning making is one of the most powerful tools of their agency, and this is what this study reveals. In it, I tell the stories of people in the Free State Province, South Africa, who face food insecurity within abundance, and their critical consciousness and agency as they struggle to survive in their democracy. Poverty is a rawness...Poverty is struggle... Poverty is shame...these were some of the themes running through people's narratives as they explained their lives. Most studies on food insecurity focus on what resources are needed to produce more food, but few examine the issue of food insecurity as one of social, economic, political, and historic inequality and inequity. Neither do they do so through the qualitative inquiry lens of what meanings the people involved in the food system - and particularly the food insecure - make of food insecurity. Studies of this nature are greatly needed, and this is one such study. It is based on the premise that the food insecure of the Free State Province are theorists of their own reality and are agents in confronting the challenges of multidimensional poverty that they face. This study reveals that their food insecurity is not necessarily based on the lack of food, that is, that they go hungry day after day because there is not enough food in the province. Instead, the fundamental problem is their tenuous economic access to food, i.e. that there is food, but poor people cannot have a sustainable access to it through their own means because they are too poor. This study has shown that poor people perceive their main problem as being their poverty. Moreover, the findings reveal that because of this poverty that they live, some of them compare their present day situation to the apartheid era, casting a favourable light on that era in terms of people having food and employment; two of the issues that are their gravest concerns. Through my study, I make the case that it is fundamental that the voices of the food insecure be heard, and most importantly, that they be included in formulation of poverty alleviation and food insecurity in South Africa.