Volunteers step in as hunger hits home


An emergency food fundraising and distribution group has been established in Makhanda to respond to the hardship many families are experiencing under the Covid-19 lockdown. It is working alongside the programmes of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Social Development.

The Circle of Unity Makhanda Food Group is using existing food distribution projects as well as schools to identify those in need. Since Saturday 11 April, they have delivered 170  food parcels to the most vulnerable households attached to Mary Waters Secondary and Grahamstown Primary schools, Amasango, Khutliso Daniels and Ntsika Secondary School, as well as Sun City residents. In addition, 320 loaves of bread have been given to people in need.

All the distribution is done according to a growing list of desperate households.

On Thursday 16 April, another 69 food parcels were handed out to car guards and more (120) were taken to child-headed households and other vulnerable families .

Luyanda Nabo collects a food parcel from the distribution point on Thursday 16 April.

Helen Alfers, who co-ordinates the group, said the Circle of Unity Makhanda Food Group works alongside the Cathedral’s food voucher programme, Food4Futures, a DSG initiative and LIV.

Nicci Hayes, who is part of the team said, “But the need is far greater than this. Many people rely on ‘piece jobs’ and are thus unable to earn at the moment. Scholar Nutrition is obviously at a standstill, and many feeding schemes have been unable to continue during lockdown.”

Alfers said there were 800 people on a distribution list .

“We have spent considerable time trying to establish a list of the most vulnerable in as ethical a way we can, while waiting for sufficient funds to ‘mobilise’,” she said.

A standard food parcel contains:
2.5kg samp, 2.5kg maize meal, 1kg sugar, pkts 26 tea bags, sugar beans, 2.5kg cake flour, 800g peanut butter, 750g sunflower oil, chicken stock cubes, pkts yeast, soap bars, 400g packets soya soup

The organisers have asked the public to donate to the following fund that goes only to food parcels and distribution costs (plus normal bank charges):
Makana Revive Trust
Standard Bank Grahamstown
Reference: COVID FOOD
Bank Code 050917
Account Number 28 315 4012

Those in need of a Section 18 A Tax certificate please donate via the Centre for Social Development CSD at Rhodes. CSD bank details for COVID FOOD donations (note the CF in the reference):
Bank: First National Bank
Account Name: Rhodes University
Account number: 621 455 03076
Branch code: 210717
Reference: 19050 768 172 CF + donor’s details
Proof of payments to be e-mailed to Natalie.Stokes@ru.ac.za for record keeping and also to make sure that donations are correctly allocated.

More about the group

The Circle of Unity is an umbrella organisation encompassing an number of civil society organisations, institutions and individuals including (but not limited to) the GRA, MR! Rhodes, UPM, Schools and many others.  The purpose of the group is to try to improve Makhanda in ways that are sustainable and in the best interests of all who live here.  This includes attempting to coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for maximum impact, and working alongside municipal and state based organsiations, in the hopes of maximising the benefits for all.
More information: https://www.ru.ac.za/latestnews/makhandacircleofunitystakeholdersspringintoactiontoadvancecity.html

The Food Group is one of the collectives that has come together specifically in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic (along with a medical equipment group, a fundraising group and a communications group). These groups have sprung up organically and are comprised of volunteers.  Anyone is free to join in.  If you would like to be a part of organising these initiatives please sign up on the food tab in https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1pBYNVtB3NfI2I-05aFxSmLomjFYUFKaT0AHBfVOy7gs/edit#gid=0

For general enquiries please contact Helen Alfers on helenalfers@gmail.com

If you would like to volunteer to assist with packing and distributing food parcels please contact Nicci Hayes on n.hayes@ru.ac.za.

If you know of anyone who is homeless, and in need of shelter, please direct them to the social workers at the Department of Social Development.

The community centre in Raglan Road (opposite Jackies) is serving meals on normal weekdays (though this may be discontinued shortly owing to national concerns about infection potential).

Police and SANDF monitor a queue in Hill Street, where car guards registered for food support came on Thursday to collect grocery parcels. Tightening of the lockdown regulations means food may no longer be handed out at collection points but must be taken to people at their homes.

On Friday 17 April, SASSA handed out 150 food parcels at BB Zondani Hall, in Hooggenoeg and in Fort Brown. Grocott’s Mail understands using the lists compiled by councillors, people who don’t receive grants (other than child support grants) were prioritised for food relief.

“Those lists had 2000 people or more on them for each ward,” said an official who asked not to be named. “We had to find a way to narrow that number down.”

A SASSA staff member assists Lungisi Madandabana with a chair as he queues for food relief outside BB Zondani Hall on Friday 17 April. Photo: Sue Maclennan

Those already receiving grants (other than child support grants) did not qualify for this round of SASSA distress relief.

‘I’m very hungry’

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