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In a move aimed at helping to create a cheerful and joyful atmosphere for everyone this festive season, the City of Johannesburg distributed free food and vegetable hampers to its most vulnerable residents.

Every month, a total of 7 352 indigent households on the City’s database receive food and vegetable hampers from its food bank. The hampers are distributed to the beneficiaries in all the city’s seven regions via 800 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered on the City’s database.

However, the number of beneficiaries will jump to more than 11 000 during the festive season due to increased demand and the need to give the indigent members of the community – particularly the elderly – festive season treats under Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau’s special food project.

The extra food and vegetable hampers will also be distributed to a number of recreation centres under the schools holiday programme. This is aimed at closing the gap left by school feeding schemes when the schools close for the summer holidays.

The City spends more than R5 million a year to ensure food security among the most vulnerable residents in response to Mayor Tau’s call that “no one in this city must go hungry”.

A study conducted by the Independent Development Trust in 2012 found that 42% of poor people in Johannesburg do not have a meal at regular intervals. The food bank, which was initiated in 2009, forms part of the City’s Food Resilience Programme that seeks to enhance food security among the city’s residents. The programme also encourages residents to turn their backyards into food gardens.

The food bank, which is situated at the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market in City Deep, collects fresh vegetables from farmers, market agents and exporters on a daily basis.

Mpho Mukwevho, Target Groups Manager in the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market CEO’s Office, leads a team of 17 employees that ensure that the city’s most vulnerable 7 352 households receive vegetable and food hampers every month. “When we receive the vegetables we sort and wash them. We then have them certified by an inspector that they are fit for human consumption,” he says.

Mukwevho believes the City is making a big difference in the lives of the less fortunate residents of Johannesburg. “Most people are very happy [because] we are keeping the wolf from the door,” says Mukwevho. On a daily basis, we call the NGOs to come and collect the food, depending on how much we have. The number of people who request assistance exceeds the amount of food we have at any given time."

“We don’t always have enough food because food availability also depends on the season. In summer we have more because producers are afraid food will go to waste,” says Mukwevho

He says, however, that the market will from January be able to collect and store more food when the new R5 million state-of-the-art storage facility opens.
The building of the facility is almost complete, says Mukwevho.

The City is also running a 12-month pilot project in food insecure areas in Region G with Pikitup, its waste management company, through which it distributes fresh produce and basic groceries to 142 households every week. Every Monday, members of the community clean up their neighbourhood. Pikitup then collects the garbage and gives community members basic groceries and vegetables in return. “It’s called Food for Waste Pilot Project. The food is enough to keep them going for a week, depending of course on the size of the family,” he says.

The food bank also caters for special projects such as Mandela Day and the birthdays of the elderly and poor children, as well as during funerals of indigent families’ members. “Our work is, however, not limited to just food distribution. We host a number of awareness campaigns such as the upcoming 16 Days of Activism against Women and Child Abuse, Protect Our Children campaign, International Men’s Day, Women’s Day and Youth Day,” says Mukwevho.