Hi there Marion, please tell us about Breadline Africa?
Breadline Africa has always been focused on poverty alleviation. We originally recognised that a great deal of grassroots development had to take place as a part of South Africa’s nation-building process and that government structures would not be in a position to provide all of the resources to facilitate this process. Particular attention was given to the needs of community-based organisations and Breadline Africa was originally a grant-making organisation. We raised and distributed in excess of R117-million to more than 320 organisations.
In 1996, Breadline Africa saw the need for infrastructure to replace unsafe structures at early childhood development (ECD) centres and started placing converted/refurbished shipping containers. Disbursing grants were replaced by investing in the growing need for containers.
Initially, we provided everything from clinics, sports changing rooms, community kitchens, animal rescue units, to adult training centres. In 2006, we started adding libraries and feeding kitchens at primary schools and incorporating prefabricated units at centres where larger sized classrooms were required. In the last five years, we have sharpened our focus to using infrastructure for educational outcomes only – as we believe that education is the only real path out of poverty. Each year, we also run two major feeding campaigns and an outing for some of our beneficiaries.
What is your role?
I am the director and am also on the RSA board of trustees.
How has COVID-19 changed the way that you operate?
Our biggest concern started before the lockdown when ECDs and schools closed and with that closure went the feeding schemes. Many of our 125,000 beneficiaries only eat at the centres and schools. In South Africa, there are seven million children under the age of six and 65% of them live in households below the poverty line. We immediately started calling all our project sites who had received a feeding or community kitchen in the past, to see if they needed support, so by the time lockdown was implemented, we had several feeding schemes already set up.
Our first call to action came the night after lockdown was announced when SAPS needed assistance with feeding the Muizenberg homeless. Lucinda Evans from Philisa Abafazi Bethu sprang into action and started cooking for 40 homeless people for the first few days until the local CAN network took over.
Our first two feeding projects were Al-Maamana Outreach Programme in Mitchells Plain and Philisa Abafazi Bethu in Lavender Hill. A month later, our projects have rapidly expanded as the need for food has grown. We are now supporting 16 feeding sites and 20 projects – all in informal settlements and impoverished communities (these include Caledon, Worcester, Cape Flats, Heideveld, Barcelona, Blue Downs, Strandfontein and Mitchells Plain).
Our projects also include street children shelters and orphanages, refugee children and special needs children. Many of the children receive their only meal of the day at these projects.
We follow strict safety guidelines and use multiple distribution points to minimise the risk of cross-infections. More than 30,000 hot meals are now provided every week and we have funded more than 1,000 food parcels for families who have nothing. So many have lost their income and cannot put food on the table.
How many volunteers do you have working right now?
If you count all the amazing people on the feeding sites, those who have volunteered to help in the Bamboo Plant Power kitchen in Cape Town, those supporting community-based organisations, photographers and videographers, donors who are assisting with logistics and ingredients, the group of incredible Elgin farmers who pick and transport tons of apples every week, our Trustees and people in my neighbourhood cooking extra meals, the numbers must be well over 100.
Please tell us about these brave souls who are putting themselves at risk to help?
Each one has their own amazing story to tell in terms of what has driven them to do what they are doing, what keeps them motivated to work the long hours cooking and managing their teams to hand out food each day. They all had a chance to sit back and say, “…it’s not my problem, the government must sort it out”.
Some of our volunteers spent their last savings to buy food before approaching us for help. We have seen teachers at ECD centres and primary schools paying to keep the feeding programmes going. Everyone knows the risk, but the only thing that matters to them is ensuring that the children and elderly around them do not starve.
Half of the projects we are supporting are beneficiaries who have received Breadline Africa containers in the past. They have re-opened their community kitchens or ECD centres to get food out. Lucinda Evans is one such remarkable lady who, with her family, stepped in on day one, turned her garage and driveway into a kitchen, her living area into a storage space and started preparing food for 600 children. In a few weeks, she increased to feeding more than 2,000 children a day, five days a week at seven sites. She never complains and always has a smile and a kind word for everyone. Every one of our project-leads out in the field are amazing! We could do a story on each one if space allows.
You team up with other NPO’S/people…
Breadline Africa has always placed huge value on partnerships and we are incredibly grateful to all those who have stepped in to work with us. A special mention to Petrina Pakoe – Director of The Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA) who has been so responsive and with her team, has gone the extra mile in helping us to deliver ingredients and food parcels and co-funded several sites. We decided to try and make up 200 food parcels at home and having helped to carry in over 2,000 kg of items (four carloads) into the house, I totally appreciate what goes into making up just one food parcel!
In addition, BamBoo Plant Power, a newly opened vegan restaurant in Cape Town, partnered with us to raise funds under the Hunger Hero banner and have been amazing in supporting us with 6,000 meals a week. They do so much of the unseen work in the background, with volunteers chopping hundreds of kilograms of vegetables a day. A big thank you to Sebastien, Daniel and the team.
Are you receiving government funding and/or help from big business to assist since the COVID-19 outbreak?
We haven’t received any government or large business funding for the feeding programme and would certainly welcome it, as it would allow us to expand our reach and continue for longer. Even if we reach Level 1, many will still have lost their income and be unable to feed their children.
Please tell us about your 2023 target?
Our target is to place a total of 1,000 infrastructure units by 2023, impacting 250,000 children. Providing safe infrastructure to support the critical first one thousand days in a child’s life, which gives them a better opportunity to learn and succeed. In addition, our library units address the shortage in South African schools, where 80% do not have access to a functional library or storybooks. It started as an idea of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in December 2010, and has now turned into a cost-effective and scalable reality. Literacy levels and student retention at primary school education level is improved, and the long-term benefit is that more children complete high school, opening possibilities of tertiary education and better employment prospects.
We believe that every child has the capacity to do something phenomenal with his or her life.
How can people help?
Financial donations, or fresh or dried ingredients that can be delivered to any of our 16 feeding sites, gas cylinders, masks for children. If anyone is keen to help chop vegetables, then BamBoo Plant Power restaurant could do with a few more hands. All queries can be directed to me or 081 425 0685.
Anything to add?
As we are registered as a Public Benefit Organisation, we can issue tax certificates, donation acknowledgement/donation in kind letters. Any support, however small, makes a difference when you consider that R2.50 provides one meal.
You are most welcome.
To find out more about Breadline Africa
Tel +27 21 418 0322 or 081 425 0685
Photos credited to Hannah Beth, thank you Hannah, you are incredible.