Project relieves child hunger

2015-07-01 06:05
THEMBILE MOHLONYANE, Free State Food Project coordinator.    
Jabulani Dlamini

THEMBILE MOHLONYANE, Free State Food Project coordinator. Photo: Jabulani Dlamini

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Give a brief background of the organisation.

THE Free State Food Project is a non-profit organisation aimed at improving access to healthy food in poor communities and fighting hunger by building communities that have food security.

The organisation has a number of programmes through which it aims to attain its objectives: the Emergency Food Assistance programme, Nutrition Education, the Community and Citizen Empowerment Programme and the Research and Advocacy Programme.

What would you say is the extent of hunger in Mangaung?

We need to contextualise the problem by first understanding how people meet their food security needs. In this regard, you would know that there are only two ways for people to meet their food security needs.

The first is through the production of their own food, which means they need to have access to land and resources to produce sufficient food.

Our research indicates that an average household would need approximately 14 ha to produce enough food for consumption.

This rules many families out due to lack of access to ample land.

The second way is through the purchasing of their own food. Again, our research indicates that a typical individual would need to spend roughly R1 250 to purchase the correct food within the context of the national dietary guidelines. Given the levels of poverty and unemployment, many families cannot afford this.

Who are most affected by hunger?

Traditionally, when you talk about hunger, people on the streets, those in informal settlements and of course those in rural areas come to mind.

However, with the levels of poverty and unemployment in Mangaung, the reality is that hunger no longer has boundaries X it even affects families in formal houses. These houses are in areas we had never imagined, people with bonded houses, in established townships and indeed even families in some of the traditionally white suburbs.

You recently launched the Child Hunger Assistance Programme (Chap). What is it about?

The Chap is an emergency food-assistance programme aimed at helping destitute children and fighting child hunger across the city of Mangaung.

Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to hunger and the ones who most need nutrition in their early developmental years.

At the same time, we have observed that many families who are unemployed, rely on the child support grant as their main income.

The programme provides meals on weekends and afternoons and assists with food parcels on school holidays.

How much is the child support grant many families rely on?

The grant is R330 for a family with one child, but of course it will increase with each child.

In many cases both parents are unemployed and as such the child grant will be the household’s only income.

Is the government not assisting families such as these?

There is no universal coverage when it comes to the social-assistance programme in South Africa. Therefore, families do not receive direct government assistance simply by being destitute or unemployed.

There is a test for people to qualify for the social-assistance programme and you should be in any of these categories: elderly, disabled or orphaned children.

There are programmes available such as the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). Unfortunately, these are unable to cover all people.

How do you help children of poor families?

The programme gives emergency food to such children in the form of emergency parcels consisting of basic food items that can last the families for the duration of the month.

This food parcel contains basics such as maize meal, flour, rice, cooking oil, sugar, tea, beans, soya mince and tinned fish. It is largely food to be prepared at home and allows the family to sit together and enjoy meals, promoting good family values.

I must also emphasise that it is just an emergency response while we devise a means to enable the family to get their own food. We also provide meals on afternoons through our mobile soup kitchen.

How do you fund such a programme?

Given the fact that the organisation is a non-profit-making body, we rely on the good hearts of the larger community to give donations of both money and contributions.

The generous spirit of the community and local businesses enables us to reach many of our destitute children and bring hope to them.

Is there a way that people can join hands with you in fighting hunger?

Yes, everybody is welcome to join the war against child hunger.

In this regard, we also call on businesses to lend a hand X we chose to fight child hunger following the realisation that many children receive their only meal of the day at school and, when the schools are closed, some battle to get food due to being from poor households.

In fact, around 150 000 school children participate in the school feeding programme across Mangaung. Many of them are faced with hunger during school holidays.

What would you say was the motivating factor for the organisation to prioritise children?

During our research stage and consultations, one of the statements that I will never forget is of a school principal who said the following:

“In my school, there are children who come to school on Monday weak, and they tell their teachers they have been longing for school to start so they could get food.

Over weekends, they have nothing to eat at home.”

Also, I will not forget the story of a young boy who gets three slices of bread at school.

He eats one slice of his bread, but keeps the other two for his young brother who does not attend school.

That just about sums up our motivation to act in aid of and to prioritise children.

They cannot provide for themselves and therefore they need assistance.

What is the Action Against Hunger Campaign?

It is a campaign within which we aim to raise awareness about the levels of hunger in the city of Mangaung and to bring about a mindset change with regard to our understanding of hunger and where it is located.

We also aim to mobilise the necessary resources for the food parcels project in this way.

We would like to reach the target of 12 000 food parcels, which will be distributed during the December holidays to children from destitute households across the city.

This means we will assist families from the Bloemfontein District, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu. We call for the broader community and business to support this initiative. Each of us can play a role.

Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share?

We call on the community to join hands and help fight the scourge of child hunger in our communities.

We will only be able to reach more children faced with hunger if we get enough support from all sectors of society, including businesses.

People who would like to assist, can get in touch with me to see how they can help.

) Contact Mohlonyane by sending email to thembile­ or calling 074-745-2414.

FOLLOWING the successful piloting of the Child Hunger Assistance Programme (Chap) that assisted 500 needy children in the Bloemspruit Area with food assistance (food parcels) over the festive season last year, the Free State Food Project is now rolling out the programme across Mangaung.

The launch was a seminar on closing the meal gap, the period between meals.

This aimed to indicate the problem of hunger in Mangaung with a view of ­advancing the need to act against child hunger.

To this effect, the Action Against Hunger programme was launched.

The founding member of the organisation, who is also the programme coordinator, Thembile Mohlonyane, spoke to Express editor Jabulani Dlamini about the organisation, its objectives and the fight against the problem of child hunger in the city of Mangaung

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