In 1945 Bishop Trevor Huddleston saw the plight of malnourished children in Johannesburg and, along with a group of young volunteers, started up soup kitchens to feed hungry children in Sophiatown, Alexandra and Soweto; especially during the city’s often freezing winters.
Over time the number of soup kitchens grew, along with the number of children being fed daily. Five years after Huddleston initiated the feeding scheme the first permanent feeding centre was established, providing meals to more than 4 000 children daily; the feeding scheme is now known as the African Children’s Feeding Scheme (ACFS).
Today the organisation works with families in Soweto, Kagiso, Alexandra, Thembisa, Daveyton, Kwa Thema and Tsakane with 13 centres in total.
The organisation provides milk and peanut butter sandwiches to some 31 000 children daily and works to promote physical and economic wellbeing in these communities.
“The most rewarding part is to see the ‘before’ situation of the child or family and the situation after our intervention. [It’s] The difference made through the organisation’s involvement e.g. reversing malnutrition, providing food to children who would have gone to bed without food,” says Phindile Hlalele, ACFS’s executive director.
PROJECTS AND PROGRAMMES FOR PROGRESS
The ACFS has a variety of projects aimed at improving the lives of the people it works with. These include micro-economic empowerment programmes, building community food gardens, health and nutrition education and an HIV/Aids awareness programme.
The micro-economic empowerment programmes have allowed for many community members to start and sustain small businesses.
The organisation’s approach helps families become self-sufficient, to make way for new families needing help.
“What keeps us motivated is to see a malnourished child pulling through up to tertiary [education] and becoming a person that breaks the cycle of poverty in their family,” says Hlalele
Another project employs female community members to sew bed linen, table clothes, hospital gowns and aprons to order from promotional goods distribution company O’Kagen Brand Aid. The income earned is vital for these women and their families.
The community food gardens project lets community members grow their own food, reducing food costs.
Each of the organisation’s 13 centres has a garden in which mostly women are taught how to grow crops; once they’re adept at growing food they are urged to plant gardens at home to feed their families.
Surplus produce is sold to their neighbours or at markets to generate income to meet daily needs.
The gardens also provide employment where few jobs are available.
PLAY YOUR PART
The African Children’s Feeding Scheme needs donations to continue its work. It also sells the products from the many home industry projects it runs to raise much-needed funds.
“Some of our biggest challenges are the economy of the country as we solely rely on donations from companies. We experience the shrinkage of donations from all angles i.e. companies and individuals because of financial pressures,” says Hlalele.
“The high rate of unemployment brings more people coming to us for help and we struggle to meet their needs.”
To donate to ACFS (just R145 buys a child a meal for each day over three months), visit the organisation’s website or call 011 839 2630/1 to also order promotional items.