Preparing between 50 000 to 60 000 meals a month is no small task. But when it’s being done to feed the hungry and those who often only eat one balanced meal a day it takes on a different spin.
With World Hunger Day being marked on Saturday May 28, Shiloh, a non-profit organisation based in Brackenfell, is trying to highlight the challenges that a large proportion of the population faces on a daily basis.
According to the latest statistics, the United Nations Children’s Fund – Unicef South Africa – says that malnutrition is a major underlying cause of death in 64% of children under the age of five in the country.
Unicef found that one in five children is stunted and many are deficient in the vitamins and minerals vital for good health and optimal development. The organisation said every year about 75 000 children do not make it to their fifth birthday, and 75 percent of newborn babies die in their first week of life.
Estelle Veldman, the chief operations officer at Shiloh, told Northern News that children are, in fact, a major target of the welfare organisations that are on Shiloh’s outreach programme.
For many of the young ones, it’s their only square meal a day, and while it costs Shiloh R4.50 a meal, it is the organisation’s aim to make it as nutritious as possible to beat the scourge of malnutirition.
In the kitchen next door to their headquarters behind the Brackenfell station, workers prepare meals for between 32 to 45 welfare organisations a month.
These organisations are spread from Wallacedene, Kuils River and all the way to Calitzdorp. “We are fortunate to get a lot of donations of vegetables from local farmers in nearby Joostenbergvlakte and also a butcher donates meat which we clean and prepare,” said Ms Veldman, as she pointed to the huge stack of food-filled boxes that had just been delivered.
Schools, crèches, soup kitchens and churches are the beneficiaries of the meals, said Ms Veldman.
The food is made on massive catering stoves and cooked early in the morning, after being prepared the afternoon before. It is dished straight into cooler boxes and then delivered to the beneficiaries.
“We only do stews – no soups – so that the people who are getting them get a large meal that includes meat or beans and rice and vegetables.
“The food is then dished straight from the cooler boxes onto individual plates,” she says. “In essence, we specialise in ‘one-pot wonders’.”
Pointing to a vitamin-packed bean stew, Ms Veldman said the batch of food being prepared was to be delivered to a wine farm in the Boland, that was part of the Pebbles project, an organisation that has crèches and feeds the children of farmworkers on site.
According to their brochure, in the last year Shiloh provided 700 000 cooked meals and aside from children, the food also goes to hungry families, the elderly and the terminally ill.
“These meals have lifted the burden off organisations by eliminating the pressure of sourcing, preparing and cooking their own meals. We are also able to support patients at clinics in Kraaifontein, Wallacedene, Bloekombos, Gustrouw and Strand. Approximately 12 000 patients last year benefited from the meals.”
Ms Veldman said their outreach programme also extends to Klawer and Merweville.
Besides their food project, said Ms Veldman, who has been with the organisation for seven years, Shiloh also has a JES project – Jubilee Excellence Schools, which places crèches in needy communities. A crèche in Wallacedene has connected with other crèches in the Koue Bokkeveld and Prince Albert.
At the JES pre-school in Wallacedene, there are 47 children from the ages of four to six years, and they too get fed with Shiloh’s food relief programme.
“The aim of our curriculum is to prepare children not only for primary school but also for life,” said Ms Veldman, adding, “attention is given to the children’s emotional, social, mental and physical development, aiming to guide them in reaching their full potential.
“We really aim to let a child have a healthy self-image, inner motivation, inner-discipline and to act independently, if and when necessary.
“Many people, organisations and church congregations have a desire to use their talents and resources to do something for poor communities.”
* From Monday May 23 to Fri-day May 27, Shiloh Synergy will be commemorating World Hunger Day. The organisation will be offering a variety of nutritional meals for R20 each. Each meal sold will feed four hungry children. Shiloh is offering corporates and workers the meals to pre-order. A different meal will be cooked each day ranging from cottage pie to bobotie; chicken and broccoli stew to hearty bean soup and spaghetti bolognaise – a different dish for each day of the week. To find out more or order email, firstname.lastname@example.org