World Food Day 2020: ORT provides a lifeline in South Africa


World Food Day reminds us of our commitment to Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place. ORT SA Cape’s Feeding Initiative has been putting this commitment into action since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing thousands of meals to some of South Africa’s most vulnerable and underprivileged communities.

World Food Day takes place every October 16 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. The theme of this year’s event is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together” – which recognizes that preserving access to safe and nutritious food is an essential part of the response to the pandemic. This is particularly true for poor communities, who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and its resulting economic consequences.

Today’s goals of calling for global solidarity to help combat hunger and to recover from the current crisis by ensuring access to healthy food are reflected in ORT’s commitment to Tikkun Olam.

One beneficiary of ORT SA Cape’s program is Fazlin Abel, a 63-year-old recipient of the ORT-backed food donations.

She explains: “I am a pensioner and my husband is a pensioner as well. My pension is the only income I have. I’ve got five grandchildren staying with me as my children are unemployed.

“On Thursday I didn’t even have a drop of sugar in my house. I never thought that I’d have to rely on food donations, but when I received the food parcel I thought to myself, ‘Oh Lord, you are most gracious and most merciful’, because I was able to make food for my children and grandchildren. It was most appreciated by all of us.

“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the food parcels and the loaves of bread. You did wonders for my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren, as well as for my husband who is an amputee in a wheelchair and is no longer able to work. May the Lord bless you abundantly.”

Although ORT SA Cape has traditionally concentrated on providing training and supporting teachers in disadvantaged communities, the disruption to daily life and financial hardship caused by Covid-19 has led the organization to refocus its efforts and adapt itself to the situation faced by many South Africans in similar positions to Fazlin.

In the course of working in affected communities and in its regular contact with students and their families during lockdown, ORT SA Cape became increasingly aware of a deepening food crisis.

Beginning in April, its Feeding Initiative has helped students and their families by delivering meals and food parcels to their doors.

Despite facing challenges such as spikes in Covid-19 infections and an upsurge in gang-related violence, since July the number of families receiving support has doubled and currently around 8,400 meals per week are being delivered. This success has been largely due to ORT’s long-term collaboration with local community leaders and other NGOs.

Many of ORT SA Cape’s students live in homes with little or no income. Others live in child-headed or grandparent-headed homes. With a huge rise in unemployment and poverty, the organization began a special fundraising campaign to assist communities with much-needed food relief.

South Africa is only now slowly moving out of lockdown and the need for food relief remains. ORT SA Cape is therefore planning to continue its Feeding Initiative for as long as necessary, providing a crucial lifeline for students, families and communities throughout the country.