Taste+See – addressing hunger in the Helderberg

Food parcel recipients leave the Refinery with their weekly supplies from Taste+See.

It’s said that Covid-19 exposes the weaknesses in a body and amplifies them.

This is the reason that the vast majority of deaths are seen in those with co-morbidities; pre-existing health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and others.

It’s a good analogy for the way that the disease impacts upon society.

In South Africa, our pre-existing weaknesses include poverty, food insecurity, a high incidence of non-communicable diseases and inequality. Covid-19 what amplified all these.

In the Helderberg, thousands of people are now unable to earn an income due to the lockdown which began on Friday March 27.

With so many living on the breadline as is, the absence of a weekly wage has resulted in wide scale hunger with no savings to fall back on.

Nearly a month later, on April 21, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a number of measures to feed the hungry including various grants.

Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies. Thousands of foreign nationals who survived on casual work or as informal traders are no longer able to earn an income, they have no support from the South African government, and no means of returning to their home countries.

In essence, they are wholly reliant on the charity of others.

New Generation Church, based in Somerset West Business Park, has had a feeding scheme for congregants in need for many years.

The necessary permits were obtained in order to continue the provision of essential items during the lockdown.

“Ahead of lockdown we were feeding about 65 people a week,” explains Yvette Liedke, who oversees the mercy ministry (known as the 245 Fund) for the church.

“But it soon became apparent that many many more people needed help,” she adds.

“During the first weeks of lockdown people had no means of getting food to those in need, but we were already set up with the permissions, the volunteers and the nutritional research to do so and are fortuitously located within walking distance of the township and so we started doing the bulk buying and the packing of food parcels on behalf of others.”

New Generation Church partnered with Liberty Family Church, Doxa Deo Helderberg and Shofar Somerset West to increase their impact and Taste + See was launched

“We are now feeding about a thousand people a week,” says Stefan Cramer who leads New Generation Church.

“But the need is immense. On a daily basis hundreds wait in the hope of receiving a parcel. Many of these people have not eaten in days.

“Towards this end, we’ve simplified the parcels to the bare essentials so that we can feed more families. We can now feed a family of four for a week on R250.

“Thankfully, a number of businesses and individuals have donated food items, including fresh produce, and such donations supplement the food parcels when we receive them.

“It’s been absolutely beautiful to see the generosity of so many in the Helderberg and further afield. Some people donate a parcel to a specific person or family and others make an open donation in which case we’re able to assign more parcels to those on our waiting list,” says Stefan.

“We’re working with Captain Bibiana Madala in Lwandle and with Councillor Simthembile Mfecane in Nomzamo to ensure no doubling up of food parcels. We’re supporting Zoleka Soup Kitchen in Nomzamo and soup kitchens in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village.

“We’re also helping Heartlands and working in conjunction with the Somerset West Community Action Network (CAN), the Sir Lowry’s Pass Village CAN and the Nomzamo CAN.

“We’ve also packed parcels on behalf of organisations like the Helderberg Stroke Support Society and the Biscuits and Books initiative,” he adds.

If Covid-19 exposes the weaknesses in society, it also amplifies our strengths. Many, many people in the Helderberg – those still blessed to be earning an income – genuinely care and we’re certainly seeing this through the outpouring of generosity for those in need.

Members of the community are encouraged to help feed people who are desperately hungry, and can donate a parcel to a designated family, at R250 for a week, or make an open donation in which case one of the thousands of people on our waiting list will have food.

Donations of food and toiletries are also welcomed, all of which are given to those in need.

Taste+See is a voluntary entity, and for more information, visit www.tasteandsee.org.za

Carolyn Cramer is a volunteer with Taste+See.