The Community Chest’s food support initiative has been providing food relief to over 3 000 households a week.
Southern Mail visited the organisation’s food relief depot at the Every Nation Church in Retreat where volunteers and Community Chest staff have been packing nutritious meals for about 15 000 individuals as part of an expanded mandate on food security.
Most of the boxes have been donated to the NGO with extensive community networks and reach which made it possible for 100 different communities to receive the food boxes in the first week of the programme, from Sunday April 26 to Friday May 1.
Desiré Goliath, Community Chest’s spokesperson, said the project started with sanitary awareness and hygiene packs but it very soon became evident that food support was going to be the greatest need.
“Hunger is a primal need and we anticipated the crisis before it became a crisis. Added to that, by the end of April many people were not getting a salary.
“In the informal sector people weren’t able to generate income and in the formal sector a number of people were getting a portion of their income or no income at all. That was a critical area that we identified and the social grants were delayed by four days, which impacted on people quite radically,” she said.
They then sent out a food relief appeal and were inundated with help from individuals and corporates. Screening was then done and the group started packing and distributing the food boxes which feeds a family of five for two weeks and helped supplement their food for a month.
Ms Goliath said this will be an ongoing process beyond the lockdown and Covid-19.
As the donors and sponsorship increases they will also be expanding the programme to the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Volunteers from organisation Learning in Reach and Every Nation Church have been assisting with packing of the boxes.
Pastor Wayne Meyer said he opened his church for the programme “because it is our Christian duty to love our neighbours”.
“This is part of the South African spirit of ubuntu. There were riots about food and this was a cry from the communities. There was a food crisis before Covid-19 and we had food campaigns – now we have similar mindsets and asked how we can meet the needs of the community and that is why we are onboard with the project,” he said.
Volunteer Elizabeth Petersen from Lavender Hill said she wanted to give back to the community and this was the opportune time to do so: “This is what the Lord expects from us, especially in times like these”.
Board chair Charleen Duncan appealed to people from academia, businesses, civil society and government to engage to redesign and recreate the entire value chain looking at food security going forward.
“It’s important to be doing relief work at this time but relief work is not the solution to the food security challenge that we have. We cannot continue the way we have been. We all have work to do. We can find our own solutions because we have an innovative way of thinking and we can come up with the solutions.”
The group thanked donors Plumstead Pick n Pay, Peninsula Beverages, Corrusel and all other corporates and individuals for their help.
To donate to the Community Chest National Emergency Covid-19 Fund, go to the group’s social media pages or log on to comchest.org.za