African disaster relief organisation, Gift of the Givers, has partnered with food suppliers, Retort Food Company (Refco) to prepare and distribute fully-cooked, nutritious meals with an extended shelf-life to the country's impoverished communities. These meals have been distributed for the past two weeks, but to cater to the growing need for food relief, the organisations need to raise R10m to feed food-insecure individuals
Credit: Gift of the Givers
According to Refco, the ‘heat and eat’ meals supplied reduce the need for communal cooking and mitigate infection by transference.
“Each meal costs R6 for an adult serving, R5 for a child’s serving, and we aim to raise in excess of R10m so that we can provide more than 1.5 million meals over the coming weeks,” explained Scott Pitman, managing director of Refco.
“Understandably this is an incredibly tough economic period, but the hardest hit are those who were already struggling before the lockdown. We are calling on anyone – corporates and individuals – to donate whatever they can towards this initiative so that no South African is left hungry.”
Growing risk of starvation
According to the results of the recent Human Sciences Research Council study on the impact of the virus, 24% of South Africans have no money to buy food – increasing to 55% in the informal settlements.
The required physical distancing needed to curb the spread of the virus places further logistical challenges on NPO feeding schemes in terms of meal preparation and distribution, but one partnership is helping to address this while meeting a R10m target to feed South Africa’s destitute.
Pitman explained that The Gift of the Givers Foundation has proven to be a hugely impactful and credible NPO which continues to make a profound difference in many people’s lives. “It is for this reason that we have chosen to partner with them and complement their national food parcel offering, with our capability and support, in this moment of need.
“Covid-19 is going to leave a lasting negative impact on our poor. Going forward, we intend to dedicate a portion of our available manufacturing capability to continue to produce affordable, shelf-stable, nutritious meal components for the Gift of the Givers Foundation’s food support initiatives.”
Credit: Gift of the Givers
Gift of the Givers has provided emergency relief services across various sectors since the implementation of the national lockdown, including the provision of medical supplies, consumables and counselling. Meal parcels have been distributed, however, the difficulty previously was the preparation of nutritious food on a large-scale in light of the physical distancing restrictions.
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said in a statement that the organisation’s toll-free lines were ‘flooded’ with requests for food. “The callers are from every corner of the country. The pleading is incessant, they have to feed a hungry child, a baby, or someone ill. They don't have income, won't be getting paid, are not collecting UIF, and probably don't have a job to go back to. The desperation, the insurmountable grief, is heart-rending.”
Sooliman said that everyone can do something to assist: “This is a time to give until it ‘hurts’ for a fellow compatriot caught up in the harsh reality of Covid-19.”
Retort cooking method
"Using a retort cooking method, Refco provides safer and more nutritious meals that are protein-enriched. The focus will be on providing chicken stew and samp and beans to supplement Gift of the Givers meal parcels which are high in carbohydrates. Using a pressure cooker under heat, the meat is evenly cooked in its own gravy at 120 degrees, and no preservatives – only flavouring – is added for maximum nutritional benefits," the food company said in a statement.
The sterilised cooked product is packed into multilayer packaging which means each meal is shelf-stable for six months. These easy-to-carry food pouches can be easily distributed, and taken home for eating without the need for refrigeration.
The first phase of this initiative has raised more than R1.2m, with the initial order of 35,000 meals being dispatched on Friday, 24 April. However, more contributions are needed to reach the required R10m target.
DonateGift of the Givers
Account Name: Gift of the Givers Foundation
Bank: Standard Bank
Type: Business Current Account
Branch Code (EFT): 051001
SWIFT Address: SBZA ZA JJ
Reference: REFCO SA-in-Need
All donations will receive a section 18A tax certificate.