As Hardship Continues, Empathy Drives Our Social Agenda

Only one thing is certain – these are uncertain times. In the space of only 11 months, we all find ourselves living in a very different world. The impact of Covid-19 has been hard on everyone, in very different ways. Many have lost loved ones; their jobs or had their income reduced. Many are experiencing severe hardship and struggling to cope. Many are socially isolated from their family, friends and colleagues, for extended periods. Our frontline healthcare workers are exhausted. Our economy is taking a beating. Many businesses have closed, while others are struggling to survive. The public is becoming more and more sceptical about our government’s ability to manage this crisis and our recovery programme.

Yet, in the midst of all this hardship and uncertainty, we have also seen many examples of the most beautiful demonstrations of humanity, generosity, kindness, personal sacrifice and empathy that inspire us, motivate us, encourage us and bring us closer together. I’m reminded of what Robert Alden said: “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle. Amanda Gorman’s powerful quote at US President Biden’s inauguration reinforces this sentiment: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

I have seen, first-hand, the amazing generosity, kindness, personal sacrifice and empathy from literally thousands and thousands of people over the past few months who have supported our work in different ways. When FoodForward SA made a special Covid-19 R50mn public appeal in April 2020, we had no idea what the response would be. Thankfully, it was overwhelming! People donated in their personal capacity or directed funds via their corporate social investment budgets – allowing FoodForward SA to raise more than R90mn in 9 months. Moreover, we have received regular procured quality food donations from our generous food donor partners to the value of more than R100mn.

This practical display of empathy in action allowed FoodForward SA to scale up exponentially and respond timeously when the crisis first emerged. With your help, we have been able to:

    • Ensure that all the Beneficiary Organisations (BOs) in our network receive food every month.
    • Make sure that more than 80% of the food we provide is nutritious food.
    • Provide enough food to our BO network to distribute 26mn meals.
    • Scale up dramatically to increase our reach into all 9 provinces.
    • Increase our BO network by 80%.
    • Significantly increase our reach into vulnerable rural communities across South Africa. Every month we distribute nutritious food to 13 rural communities. More rural communities will be targeted this year.
    • Increase our national warehouse capacity.
    • Improve our national cold chain capacity.
    • Purchase more vehicles, especially larger refrigerated vehicles, to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
    • Partner with logistics companies to move bulk stock between provinces on our behalf.
    • Procure more nutritious food each month to meet the growing demand.
    • Increase our national staff capacity.
    • Improve our FoodShare digital platform so that more BOs can be connected seamlessly to more stores for food collections.
    • Commence our national food parcel programme to targeted individuals with compromised immunity and focus on getting food parcels to families that desperately need food.

Now, this is social impact investing with measurable returns. Your empathy, demonstrated by your generosity, has enabled FoodForward SA to bring urgent relief to millions of hungry people living in severe hardship with little or no hope. Since more than 75% of our beneficiary organisations’ services in under-served communities focusses on education, skills development, youth and women, your empathy translates into positive social change in under-served communities. Some of the vulnerable people that benefit from this nutritious food are also candidates enrolled in education and skills development programmes. Some are undergoing rehabilitation, to improve or manage their health. Some are rebuilding their lives, after a tragedy. Your investment is, therefore, a key enabler that transforms communities through social change, where it is needed most.

Melinda Gates stated it most succinctly: “If there were ever an excuse for inaction, there isn’t one anymore. To ensure a fast and inclusive recovery, governments, business leaders and investors need to make caregiving a priority.”

The time to act is now. You have done so and continue to do so. For that, we sincerely thank you.

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