What started as a dream in the pursuit of eradicating hunger, has today come into fruition when the Garden Route Food Pantry (GRFP) was officially launched. This is a first of its kind where a District Municipality, Local Municipalities, the Private Sector and a Non-Profit Organisation, work together to alleviate hunger. Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), Local Municipalities and the GRFP and private businesses are therefore working hand-in-hand to ensure that food safety and security received the much needed attention.
The official launch the Garden Route Food Pantry took placed today, 19 February 2021, at the head office of the GRFP in George by means of a one-hour programme and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This historical occasion was attended by the Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements, Minister Tertuis Simmers, Executive Mayor of GRDM, Ald. Memory Booysen, Head of the Provincial Department of Human Settlements, Jacqueline Samson, Executive Mayors and Municipal Managers, as well as Councillors from the respective local municipalities in the district, sponsors, business owners, individuals, influencers and the media.
According to Carl van Blerk, Managing Director of the GRFP, the primary mandate of the food pantry is to source food from various local suppliers, manufacturers and farmers. Also, to be a centralised point where food security needs can be coordinated from, while at the same time also serving as a base where fortified products can be processed to fight malnutrition of communities. “This privately run facility does not belong to Government, but must be seen as an efficient facility that belongs to us all. This is why we all need to take ownership and work together to make this dream a reality – whether you are here as a representative of a municipality, a business, a service organisation, the media or just a concerned citizen wanting to make a difference. I am pleading with everyone to take hands, in order for us to approach this as a unified single unit,’’ said Van Blerk.
The GRDM Executive Mayor, Ald. Memory Booysen, during his address said that he was not only seeing what was happening at the food pantry but visualising the impact this type of partnership will have in the future. He thanked all municipalities for being present at the launch and emphasised that because of Covid-19 impact on society, the government can no longer operate in silos. Utilising the available systems and partnering with civil society is central in addressing the current repurchases of the pandemic. Mayor Booysen further envisions that this type of partnership will be duplicated in other parts of the Western Cape and South Africa as a whole.
To the farmers he said, we thank you and we salute you. He also said to the executive mayors, Councillors and taxpayers: “We need you! We want to use your money to feed everybody in this home, the Garden Route district”.
MEC Tertuis Simmers started his address with a quote by Henry Ford which eloquently summarised the occasion: “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success”. He commended the people of the Garden Route district and their innate desire to assist their neighbour. “Your contribution towards the establishment of this food pantry will ensure that many individuals and families can now be assisted with the nutritional meal they require,” Minister Simmers said.
The role of GRDM in this partnership will essentially be that of a strategic enabler with oversight responsibility. GRDM understands that nutrition and food scarcity is directly linked to food safety and security. Added to this, disaster management mitigation, and considering the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on unemployment and poverty, forms part of why we are doing this. The Garden Route Covid-19 Command Council proposed the establishing a food bank to address the critical needs of Garden Routers. Now, this proposal is a reality and GRDM will be able to oversee on a quarterly basis what change it brings to society.
One of the long-term goals of the GRFP is to establish a de-centralised facility in each town in the district. The managing director of the GRFP has already been approached by organisations in Mossel Bay and Hessequa who showed a keen interest in partnering and operating satellite branches. This shows the tremendous community spirit of individuals and businesses who are willing to play their part when the need arises to eradicate hunger.
Across the globe, there is a huge concern about the quality of food products provided to communities who struggle with nutrition. Therefore, the GRFP strives to address the nutritional value of meals. A malnourished child could be even more negatively impacted by food of low nutritional value, like for instance a lack of protein, vitamins and fiber in meals. For this reason, the GRFP reached out to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to develop a recipe that addresses the issue of food nutritional value. An agreement resulted in the Good4You Foods range to be developed, which was launched in December 2020. It included protein biscuits, also known as the super biscuits. When a child consumes one of these biscuits at the start of his or her day, the nutritional value consumed will add to the much needed energy required for a child to function optimally.
Transparency in humanitarian work is also of paramount importance. It is for this reason that all donations in and out of the food pantry will be recorded at its supply chain side. Records will be available for inspection to anybody interested, especially those who want to pledge their support, but who wants to first inspect details of how their donations will be used. A financial report will also be provided quarterly for inspection to municipalities and donors who have been supporting the GRFP. Ultimately the GRFP plans to make available all the data and reports on an online cloud-based system, where stakeholders can see exactly where the pantry distributes to. The public will furthermore be able to log onto this system.
The GRFP has four broad goals – firstly as a collection point for the sourcing of food-related goods; whether it is from a farmer, a factory, food distributor, supermarket or a generous citizen who wants to donate or seeking a place to donate any surplus or excess food stock. Once received, these items will be checked for safety and then processed into nutritional foods for distribution through a vetted network of distribution agencies. Some of the goods, especially fresh produce, will be prepared at the facility into soups, stews etc. These nutritional meals will then be delivered to a variety of feeding centres or soup kitchens across the whole Garden Route district.
The second area of service, will be to provide three day and seven-day food packs. These will be done as per orders received from Municipalities. Suppliers in each region will be approached to supply the required goods, thereby ensuring maintaining ongoing support of local industries and business.
The final goal of the GRFP is to look at the need for long-term sustainability by encouraging communities to start home-based fruit and vegetable gardens. This project has already kicked off with a number of champion gardeners. In order to be effective, the necessary training needs to be conducted after which regular monitoring and an incentive system is implemented. The incentive in the GRFP program is that community farmers can bring excess harvested goods to the pantry, and exchange for additional goods such as rice, tinned foods, etc.
HOW TO GET ACCESS TO FOOD?
There are different ways in place for people to access food. A person can work through an existing organisation such as a church, meals-on-wheels charity, faith-based networks or service organisations, which has a facility to receive food directly from the GRFP.
Alternatively, one can visit the GRFP website at www. echo.org.za, and click on a link titled ‘I NEED HELP’. The next step is for applicants to complete the online application form which in turn will direct applicants to an organisation where you will get food.
If a person runs a feeding centre in the Garden Route district and wishes to register with the GRFP for possible support, the link on the website needs to be followed to complete the application form.
If a person operates more than one location, a separate form will be required (for each venue). Applicants need to take note that registration does not guarantee approval, as an evaluation would need to be done and an inspection may be performed to verify details.
WHO WILL QUALIFY FOR ASSISTANCE?
In order for people to qualify for assistance, they need to be vetted. In this case, the food pantry will work closely with their distribution agents (churches, meals-on-wheels charities, faith-based networks or service organisations). These role players will ensure that a beneficiaries are not duplicated. The food party will also assist people who are willing to source food for themselves through gardening programmes.
The GRFP will also make use of a database with information to provide feedback to their supporters and sponsors, showcasing the number of people being fed in a particular area, identifying ‘red’ areas and bigger requirements, focusing their attention on organisations that support people in particular areas based on a criteria of need.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CURRENT SOUP KITCHENS AND GRFP
There are two basic soup kitchen structures that the GRFP will work with; those registered with the municipalities and those soup kitchens which are managed by a person at his or her house who feeds 20 children after school who are not registered, but doing a good job. Both places will be vetted.
Firstly, the need at these soup kitchens will be established. Interested parties can visit GRFP website at www. echo.org.za, and click on a link called REGISTER, and complete the application form in order to get assistance from the food pantry.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Business, individuals and the general public are encouraged to link up with the GRFP. This does not have to be by means of donating funds, but other activities too. Volunteers that pack and prepare meals is also required. There is currently a volunteer structure in the place where people can schedule their availability.
The public can become a friend of the pantry by donating R100 a month and have their name placed on a brick inside the Garden Route Food Pantry behind the reception desk.
A monthly contribution will ensure the financial stability of the pantry. It will see to it that more meals are provided to more people, especially while the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of hardship. Large businesses are also encouraged to consider partnering with the food pantry as a name partner in the fortified products – such as the protein biscuits or the newer range of fortified flavoured milk, porridges, and stew mix meals. Drive by food donation items can also be dropped-off whenever or when possible.
During the vote of thanks, Head of the Provincial Department for Human Settlements, Jacqueline Samson thanked Mayor Booysen and Mayors from the local municipalities, Municipal Managers, Councillors and GRDM officials, saying that the day would not have been possible without acknowledging their commitment and hard work. She furthermore thanked the Management and staff of the Garden Route Food Pantry and extended a special word of gratitude to the donors, sponsors, media, and in particularly Apostle Jan Horn for his words of encouragement. She concluded by saying that as Joseph in the bible preserves his dream and through his tenacity, he converted non-believers and gave new trust. She concluded by saying that she trust that this initiative will invite those no-believers to participate in this fantastic initiate to put food on the table of the community.