Volunteering at Food Forward

FoodForward SA has an ongoing volunteer programme throughout the year, allowing for schools, corporates and individual volunteers both locally and abroad to spend some time at our warehouse as we check, sort, and prepare for the distribution of food to our beneficiary organisations.

We recently hosted Bianca, an (Ex-South African) Australian volunteer at our Cape Town warehouse and national office. We asked Bianca to share her volunteering experience with FoodForward.

“My name is Bianca Slater and I spent the last three days volunteering at FoodForward SA in Cape Town. I was born in South Africa but my family moved to Australia in 2003. Whenever I come back to South Africa to visit my family and friends, I always like to do something to engage in the community and give back in some way. I feel so very fortunate for the life I live and feel very passionately about using the opportunities I have been given to help others.

I spent the morning of my first day at FoodForward SA’s national head office learning what the organisation is all about. I was told about all the various initiatives currently running such as FoodShare and Second Harvest. I was blown away by the number of different ventures going under one roof and just how many avenues FoodForward SA have created to help the communities around them.

I have always found South Africans to be incredibly resourceful and creative, and FoodForward SA is a perfect example of this. For example, recently FoodForward SA received a substantial donation of great quality tomatoes. Since tomatoes have a short shelf life, FoodForward SA needed to figure out a way to utilise this generous donation without wastage. They engaged the services of a well-known factory that used the tomatoes to create jam and pasta sauce stored in glass jars! Not only does this preserve the tomatoes for a longer period but it also creates a versatile food product for their beneficiaries. It was so inspiring to learn about how much thought goes into the work that is done here!

Later in the day, I spent some time at FoodForward SA’s Cape Town warehouse to sort and distribute all the food that comes in. It was incredible to see not only how much food comes in but how much is then given to each beneficiary organisation. What was very clear to me early on is that South Africa does not have a food supply problem but rather a distribution issue and this is where FoodForward SA is key. In the warehouse, it was very evident just how much time and thought goes into the food they are sorting. Small things such as being selective about which foods would benefit which beneficiary organisations are what make all the difference. What I did not realise coming here is just how much time and effort is required to get all this food to the right places.

It seems like quite a simple process from the outside but in fact there are many regulations, standards and rules that must be adhered to. It was so lovely to see how much of pride the Food Forward team take in sending out quality food to their beneficiaries and that they have very stringent rules to keep their standards high. I spent time unpacking, labelling and repacking huge amounts of high quality food to send out to the community.

My second day was spent out on the road visiting three beneficiary organisations that receive food from FoodForward SA. We visited a community kitchen, a homeless shelter and a children’s home. Each beneficiary organisation has their own specific food needs, but FoodForward SA manages to supply high quality food to each of them every single month. Seeing where the food goes to from FoodForward SA made me understand the powerful impact that this organisation has. It was so heart-warming to see how grateful the recipients are for the contribution FoodForward SA makes. Many of the recipients who benefit from this organisation have faced great hardship in their lives but to see them now have the stability of at least one meal a day is truly incredible. There is so much of quality nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste that is now being redirected to the people that need it.

My final day was spent at the national head office understanding what really makes FoodForward SA tick. It was an eye opening experience to see just how much work is required to do something so simple as to feed the hungry. There is a very careful balance that goes on in the offices of FoodForward SA to utilise funds and resources for maximum impact. Every day the team work to create new ways to become more efficient at reaching more and more people in need. Not only does FoodForward SA provide nourishment through food but they also run an intern program in their offices to educate and provide work experience to youth that would otherwise not have such opportunities. In most cases, this results in continued employment as they are successfully absorbed into the FoodForward SA family.

In such a short time I have learned so much about the vision that drives FoodForward SA. The volunteering experience with FoodForward SA was invaluable and I would highly recommend it to anyone who was interested in getting involved. I am incredibly grateful to the FoodForward SA team for allowing me to get involved. Thank you so much for the incredible experience but most importantly for making it your goal each and every day to help the people that need it most.” – Bianca Slater