“Alleviating hunger is not an act of charity. It is imperative for any society that is founded on respect for human rights.” These were the powerful words of President Cyril Ramaphosa during South Africa’s first month of lockdown when the entire country started to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year World Hunger Day on 28 May is a stark reminder that millions of people worldwide do not know where their next meal will come from. In South Africa, where the majority of children already lived below the poverty line before the devastating impact of the coronavirus, job losses resulting from the measures to control the pandemic means that many children in our country will be going to bed on an empty stomach.
National dietary surveys estimate that 77% of children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years do not receive a minimally acceptable diet and that 2.5 million children live below the food poverty line. The most common form of malnutrition in South Africa is stunting that occurs when a child is not growing optimally compared to the expected average growth rate.
After the first weeks of lockdown South Africans were confronted with distressing images of desperate people clamouring for food parcels and of community protests against food shortages. As the government grappled with plans to feed a growing number of desperately hungry people, several organisations have come on board to provide and distribute meals to families in need.
Launched in 2016 by the Spur Foundation, the Full Tummy Fund is focused on early childhood development (ECD) and nutritional programmes amongst disadvantaged communities across South Africa. The Full Tummy Fund has been supporting 817 children in ECD centres every school day in the Eastern Cape and Atlantis near Cape Town. On average the Full Tummy Fund provide close to 200 000 meals to young children every year.
Under the present harrowing circumstances, the plight of babies and toddlers are of particular concern, says Tara Theron, manager of Spur’s Full Tummy Fund. “The care and nutrition a young child receives have a direct impact on their brain development,” explains Tara. “During the first two years of a toddler’s life the brain is developing at its fastest pace – it is twice as active as an adult brain. Interventions that ensure adequate health and nutrition in the early years of a child’s life are essential to achieving good educational and developmental outcomes.”
Tara says the “family” of Spur Corporation restaurants have been doing all they can to support poverty-stricken communities during the national lockdown. The group’s eight brands include Spur Steak Ranches, Spur Grill & Go, Panarottis Pizza Pasta, John Dory’s Fish Grill Sushi, RocoMamas, The Hussar Grill, Casa Bella and Nikos Coalgrill Greek.
“Some of our franchises have handed out food parcels and surplus stock and others have been involved with soup kitchens. Last week the Full Tummy Fund provided 1 355 litres of soup distributed from a school in Khayelitsha to 270 families. The soup was prepared at Spur Central Kitchens and distributed by the volunteer run soup kitchen Ladles of Love and the CoolPlay NGO. The packaging materials company Traidcor helped us with transport,” Tara says.
The Full Tummy Fund has been working closely with organisations that have the expertise to respond to the poverty and hunger crisis faced by millions of undernourished children in South Africa. By partnering with the Lunchbox Fund and JAM South Africa, thousands of children have benefited from the Full Tummy Fund over the past few years.
The support of the Full Tummy Fund has allowed JAM South Africa to make a big difference in the lives of many preschool children, says David Brown, Managing Director. JAM South Africa feeds more than 100 000 kids in 3 000 Early Childhood Development Centres in all 9 provinces. “This feeding is a daily highly nutritious breakfast ‘super porridge’ which gives the children approximately 75% of their daily nutritional requirements,” David explains.
Immediately after ECD centres were closed by the government in March JAM distributed take-home rations to the children they support. During the lockdown JAM provided food and hygiene parcels to families, initially targeting the 100 000 families represented by the preschool children getting daily meals from the organisation. The Full Tummy Fund approved funding for this period to be redirected to sending food and essential parcels to the families affected.
The Lunchbox Fund is a school nutrition programme that provides hot meals each school day to 30 000 children in 800 schools nationally. The meal provides an incentive to the child to attend school and to keep attending, says Managing Director Sue Wildish.
Sue has become a prominent figure during the lockdown as the Lunchbox Fund launched a Relief Feeding Program providing meals for more than 120 000 people. Her organisation has a long and mutually invested partnership with the Full Tummy Fund, says Sue. The contribution from the Full Tummy Fund enables the Lunchbox Fund to support several Early Childhood Development Centres.
“By supporting these schools, we help children to learn and grow, and their health is improved by the wide range of micro-nutrients (minerals and vitamins) in the meals. The principal is supported in her small business by being able to redeploy funds she may have spent on food. Typically this includes paying teacher’s salaries as the school grows and buying educational materials,” says Sue.
The Lunchbox Fund has ring-fenced its School Nutrition funding to make provision for the government’s plan to continue with the 200 day school year, making up lost time in the holidays.
Providing food to vulnerable young children will be a crucial aspect of South Africa’s long road to recovery after the lockdown, says Tara. “Many parents will be impacted by job losses and will not be able to provide for their families. With Spur’s Full Tummy Fund our main is to focus on the first six years of a child’s development to make sure the little ones get all the nutrition they need, even if it’s just one healthy meal at a crèche or school a day. We know you can’t teach a hungry child and during these first formative years, the essential building blocks for brain and body development are laid.”
Knowing their child receives a healthy meal at school provides peace of mind to parents, Tara says. “Once schools start opening, they are desperately going to need help with providing food to children. World Hunger Day reminds us that among the many difficulties South Africans will face over the next few months, wondering how they will provide enough food for their children should not be one of them.”
People who want to make a contribution to the Full Tummy Fund can make a payment on the secure, no fuss donations page or by using SnapScan. Your contribution will make a big difference in a little person’s life.