Rising food price a shock for church group’s soup kitchen

The rising cost of food has unintended consequences. For a group of churches, Presbyterian, Catholic, Dutch Reform and Baptist, who run soup kitchens every day at the Durbanville taxi rank, the new price of Imbo beans came as a shock.

Charlotte Dunienville, one of the people involved in the initiative, said Pick * Pay, Graanendal, were selling Paddy’s red lentils for R11.79 a packet and Imbo beans for R21.99.

“The last time we checked, Imbo beans were selling for R13. This is worrying as the churches provide soup daily at the taxi rank.

“We have to pay for the ingredients ourselves, so obviously, we will be buying Paddy’s lentils in the future. Does Pioneer Foods, who import the product, care about this?

“It’s unheard of that Imbo beans could cost R21.99,” said Ms Dunienville who added she didn’t check the price at other Pick * Pay stores.

Graanendal Pick * Pay, Durbanville, told her Pioneer Foods had upped its price and, “we just add our usual mark-up”.

Ms Dunienville said she spoke to a Jacintha at Pioneer Foods who told her they do not price the products in the store.

Pick * Pay said their suppliers explained that the increase was due to a world shortage which resulted from poor harvests in several countries.

“We are working very hard to keep any price increases to a minimum,” Pick * Pay told me.

Danie Bower, marketing executive of the essential foods: grains division of Pioneer Foods, said lentils were not cultivated in South Africa on a commercial scale and they sourced them from Australia and Canada.

“The combination of the weakening rand against the dollar and the fact that the international price of lentils has doubled in the last quarter, has had a significant impact on local pricing, which is why the price jumped from R13.99 retail to R21.99,” said Mr Bouwer, who pointed out that they had no influence on what retailers charged customers.

I asked Mr Bouwer if they would give a donation to the church group.

“Pioneer Foods proactively selects and strategically focuses on set projects throughout the year to increase its reach and impact.

“The group does unfortunately not offer any product or event-related donations.

“The company considers financial support to NGOs which focus on larger impact programmes over an extended period of time.

“All should be sent to the respective brand managers at Pioneer Foods and corporate funding requests can be sent via email to csi@pioneerfoods.co.za or they can contact our CSI manager, Nico Moloto on 021 974 4000, for more information,” Mr Bouwer said.

And this from a company which was fined R195 million by the Competition Tribunal for its role in a bread cartel about six years ago.

Pioneer Foods’ website said they are involved in a variety of community projects focusing on education, conservation and food security.

Meanwhile, Pick * Pay offered the church group a R2 500 gift voucher.

Andre Nel, Pick * Pay’s general manager, for sustainability, told Ms Dunienville: “We would like to thank you for the work you and the other women are doing with the churches to assist those at the taxi ranks and we would like to give you a R2 500 gift card which we hope will help you reach more people in need.”

A grateful Ms Dunienville accepted the offer and the five churches split the voucher.

“Years ago the churches used to give a lunch and each person was given a hamper of food as well.

“This is no longer economically viable. At the end of the year just before Christmas each person at the soup kitchen is given a small parcel of perhaps a small juice and biscuits, so any donations would be welcome,” Ms Dunienville said.

The group can apply to Foodbank SA for relief.

Finance officer, Ashleen Bredevelt, said FoodBank SA rescues food that would otherwise go to landfill.

“We collect edible surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers and redistribute it to our network of beneficiaries.

“Organisations that wish to become part of the FoodBank South Africa network can apply online at www.foodbanksa.org or they can collect an application form from one of our warehouses, inside the Epping Food Market,” she said.

A team of people will review the application and decide if the beneficiary will be allowed to join Foodbank SA.

The membership fee, which ranges from R350 to R500 a month, depends on the size of the organisation and the category guarantees a number of kilograms that can be collected from the warehouse.

“We are the exclusive recipient of donated surplus food from Pick * Pay and Shoprite.

“We also link registered beneficiaries with these stores via a Virtual FoodBanking platform and they can collect food from designated stores in areas close to them, to reduce the cost of transport.

The membership fee for Virtual Food Banking is R250,” Ms Bredevelt said.

* Contact Foodbank SA on 021 531 5670 for more information.