With thousands of people during Covid-19 in need of food and NPOs struggling to service the alarming rate of hunger, entrepreneurs in Cape Town’s disadvantaged areas started the Community Feeding Network, pulling forces to make a difference.
The group of small business owners in Khayelitsha, Strandfontein, Mitchell’s Plain and Mfuleni purchase fruit and vegetables from urban and township farmers, package them in family units and delivery to vulnerable people living under the bread-line in their areas.
One fruit and vegetable unit can feed a family of 10 and at R150, each of these boxes are financed through the kind donations of caring South Africans and as far afield as Belgium and Germany.
Currently they are weekly feeding over 60 families and expanding their service further as donations are received. They are also servicing a number of feeding schemes with fresh produce that can be turned into wholesome cooked meals. The network is also growing with more entrepreneurs coming forward to join the fight against hunger.
The small businesses owners who are pulling resources and supporting each other are either current or past participants of the Small Business Academy of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) which offers sponsored tuition in order to strengthen and grow small businesses in underprivileged communities.
Using the knowledge acquired whilst on the programme the founders of this network had to think literally outside of the box as the businesses they had built up over many years, closed literally over night as lockdown was enforced.
Sandy Hendricks and Jackie Julie Brock (both from Mitchell’s Plain) and Kiki Bantom (from Khayelitsha) all had their own catering business. With the lockdown restricting the preparation of hot meals they were without any form of income.
In order to survive and noting a gap in the market, Sandy applied for an essential services certificate and started delivering fresh fruit and vegetables from her contracted farmers to her usual clientele, at the same time selflessly sharing produce with community feeding groups battling the huge challenge of hunger.
Meanwhile Kiki applied for an essential services certificate to open a Spaza Shop, and upon speaking one day to Sandy, decided that together with Jackie they can expand their reach of supplying nutritious food to those in need, whilst having some form of income, albeit minimal, to keep their own families fed.
They were soon joined by Alfred Sonandi from Mfuleni who’s waste picking business came to an abrupt halt and was desperate for income. Together with a friend who used to own a fish and chip shop, they are now delivering fresh produce to families in need as well as preparing soup to try and assist in alleviating the dire need for meals. Jody Morris, who has a graphic design business in Strandfontein, also joined the network to distribute food to 20 vulnerable families from the Strandfontein Children’s Cricket Club that he supports. Alfred, Kiki and Jody are also planning to teach the recipients to start their own backyard gardens to supply fresh fruit and vegetables post lockdown.
Coordinating the efforts of the entrepreneurs and creating a central hub for the network is Edith Kennedy, lecturer at USB’s SBA programme. She said the lockdown has pushed small businesses into uncharted waters, especially in the informal settlements, and she realised the desperate need for them to during this trying time to find some form of income whilst supporting their communities.
“Giving-back has always stood out as a central theme amongst all our participants over the past 6 years of running this programme. Naturally, they want to see their business grow and succeed but not at the expense of supporting their communities and sharing skills, time or money to uplift those who are struggling. During the lockdown I helped them to look for new opportunities, how to pull resources and find solutions with the assistance of other entrepreneurs, all whilst providing a service to the community.”