Partnering to feed the needy

Chris Erasmus, owner and executive chef of Foliage Restaurant in Franschhoek, working with a group of food unit volunteers to prepare meals for the needy in the community.

An idea that emerged during the devastating wildfires in Franschhoek three years ago, has found its way to the Helderberg Basin, thanks to Sub-Council 8 chairperson and Ward 84 councillor, Stuart Pringle.

In an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 and help those in need, the Franschhoek Disaster Management team, led by Ashley Bauer, with the support of local residents, community leaders and volunteers from the village and within the informal settlements, partnered with local NPOs to establish a food unit. The unit was initiated under the auspices of Stellenbosch Municipality community development.

Together with a group of Franschhoek chefs, under the guidance of Foliage Restaurant’s executive chef, Chris Erasmus, the unit aims to feed approximately 4 000 households in total during the lockdown period.

The initial roll-out will be to 500 households, and as more donations are received, they will be able to increase the quantities until they are able to reach their goal.

The initial households have been identified as those who are in dire need of these supplies. This includes households with elderly, disabled and small children. The main objective of the unit is to keep residents at home, and in doing so, do their bit to flatten the curve.

But the initiative precedes the Covid-19 lockdown.

Mr Erasmus explains: “Ashley Bauer contacted me three years ago when we had the crazy fires in Frasnchhoek. The hundreds of tired and brave firefighters received sandwiches every day from whoever could donate from home and it was not a substantial meal.

“He contacted me and asked for help. We had a chefs WhatsApp group in place that I started a few years back to connect chefs in the valley and share resources, so we all connected and got together to feed the firefighters. Since then, when disaster strikes in the ‘Hoek, we stand together as a team and cook up a storm.

“I volunteered to head the food side of things and coordinate the crew of chefs.

“This has brought the chefs and community in Franschhoek a lot closer together, and there is a sense of fulfilment and purpose.

“Everyone has a different set of skills and we tap into that. What’s better during a lockdown than to be in the place you love so much.

“We share a kitchen and cook home style food together which makes us feel like family. We are all going through very unsure times now financially, and sharing something meaningful takes that bitter taste away.”

Helderberg Ubuntu Feeds, a community cooperative venture between the City of Cape Town’s disaster risk management department and various NPOs and restaurants in the area, was born out of this initiative.

Mr Pringle takes up the story: “Councilors in the Helderberg, the City of Cape Town’s disaster risk management department, the Somerset Rotary Club and NPOs in the Helderberg have joined hands to provide disaster relief in the form of food parcels to the vulnerable in our communities in the Helderberg.

“Funds are collected by the Somerset West Rotary Club and disbursed to purchase ingredients for food parcels or meals. These are then prepared and packed by participating restaurants or organisations. Recipients are identified by NPOs and community organisations, and relief parcels are then supplied to those households on a door-to-door drop-off system, according to a list.”

The appeal for funding did not fall on deaf ears, and the Somerset West Rotary Club set to with a will.

“We broadcast Mr Pringle’s appeal to our members and friends via email and social media. One of our members and her husband, who is a Rotarian in their home city in Germany, have together with his Rotary club donated R15 000 to the fund. A swiss couple, who are swallows stuck in Somerset West for the duration of lockdown, have donated R5 000.

“Our club has a disaster relief fund which will contribute
R10  000.

“Many Rotarians have chosen to contribute their weekly meal money – Rotarians have a meal at each of their weekly meetings – and even these small amounts will make a difference,” says Rotarian Eppie McFarlane, who is directing the programme for the Rotary Club of Somerset West.

“By Friday, there was already R10  000 in the bank account, and the major donations have yet to be transferred.

“Alaistair Laguma of Blue Ribbon called me on Monday April 6 to make a weekly donation of 80 loaves of bread.”

In addition, Mr Pringle accessed a number of food parcels from City of Cape Town executive mayor Dan Plato’s office, which Mr Pringle distributed in Somerset West, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Garden Village on Saturday.

“It’s heartening to see people working together across party lines, to help those in need,” says Mr Pringle, adding that delivery of meals and food parcels will be effected by Helderberg Crime Watch and other organisations with permission to render essential services.

“But more help is needed if the initiative is to gain traction,” according to Mr Pringle.

“We need more community organisations to help us identify individuals or families who are in need.

“We also need service clubs to motivate their members and friends to assist by donating goods or cash.

“We’re also appealing to NPOs, restaurants and businesses that can assist by assembling and packing food packs, to become part of the initiative.

“Goods can be delivered to Helderberg Crime Watch (HCW) offices, corner Victoria and Sergeant streets, Somerset West.

“The Somerset West Rotary Club will be the financial channel through which donations are received and goods are purchased,” says Mr Pringle.

Meanwhile, the Franschhoek Food Unit has made great strides in garnering support from the local hospitality community, with the likes of fellow Franschhoek chefs such as Margot Janse, Nicolene Barrow, Gordon Logan, Neil Jewel, Connor Mckibben, Archie McClean, Oelof Voster, Darren Badenhorst and Amy Lynne Philips joining Mr Erasmus on the “cooking frontline”. Foliage Restaurant will operate as the hub for the food unit during this time.

“I challenge the other chefs from surrounding areas to get together and do this. Build a band of brothers and sisters. We are all going to need each other to fix our industry when this is over, so we must start now. We have an obligation to use our skills to feed people.

“The Helderberg has always responded to disasters by standing together and the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown of South Africa has proven no different. While President Ramaphosa has made some commendable undertakings, locally it is heartening to see communities rallying around to assist vulnerable people. Ubuntu Feeds gives residents and local businesses the opportunity to support those in need. I really want to thank Rotary Somerset West for their huge roll in this initiative and I’m looking forward to watching this project roll out to assist the people most in need,” says Mr Pringle.

For Somerset West Rotary Club banking details contact helderbergubuntufeeds@gmail.com

For more information about assisting the Helderberg Ubuntu Feeds initiative, contact stuart.pringle@capetown.gov.za or WhatsApp 082 446 1520.

For more information about assisting the Franschhoek Food Unit, or for banking details, contact Martine Bauer on martine@hemisphere-epc.co.za or 083 263 6997.