There is currently a lack of research on the association between demographic dynamics and household use of natural resources in rural Africa. Such work is important because in rural Africa natural resources buffer households against shocks, offering both sustenance and income-generating potential. The article focuses on adult mortality as a household shock, examining use of local environmental resources as related to household dietary needs. The authors analyze two sources of data collected during May-December 2004 in the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) in rural South Africa. Quantitative analyses use survey data from 240 households, stratified by adult mortality experience. Qualitative data are based on 31 interviews with members of households having recently experienced adult mortality. The interviews provide insight into a variety of household-level mortality impacts and also suggest the importance of proximate resources in the maintenance of food security following the loss of an adult household member. Quantitatively, there are significant differences, both in patterns of usage of the natural environment and in levels of food security, between households that have lost an adult and those that have not. The association between mortality and household use of local environmental resources is further shaped by the gender of the deceased and the time elapsed since the death. Adult mortality, particularly the death of a male wage-earner, affects household food security. Time allocation is affected as resource collection responsibilities shift, and wild foods may substitute for previously purchased goods.