Fast-food charity gives hope to poor kids

30 December 2018 - 00:01 By BELINDA PHETO

The "Milk Woman of Soweto" struts through the township's streets. Knocking on doors and breaking down barriers of poverty, Phindile Hlalele realised long ago that providing a plate of food to the needy is not enough to change their circumstances.
Hlalele, also known as Malebese (loosely translated as milk woman), is the executive director of the African Children's Feeding Scheme (ACFS) and is seen by many in the area as a poverty eradicator.
The feeding scheme, which started as a malnutrition rehab centre, is among the first beneficiaries to receive funding from the Nikela Trust, through Rounda - a campaign that invites R1 donations when people make purchases at food outlets such as McDonald's, Nando's, Mimmos and Steers.
Nikela Trust chair Bob Tucker said: "We started this initiative after we realised that the battle against poverty cannot be won by working alone. Rounda is a call for everyone in SA to act; we hope to see big business and individuals working together to achieve the same outcome."
Those who benefit are kids like the ones helped by the ACFS.
"We admit kids between the ages of two and 18 who are usually referred to us by clinics and sometimes community members," Hlalele said.
The organisation feeds about 10,000 poor kids in Soweto and Alexandra.
Following a referral, the feeding scheme's workers visit the child's home for an assessment. Often they find even more kids in need of help.
Hlalele said they don't only feed the children but also empower their parents with skills that would make it possible for them to earn a living and provide for their families.
Skills programmes at their centres include beadwork, sewing and gardening.
"This is just to make them realise they can make things happen with their own hands and stop them from being dependent on others to provide for them," Hlalele said.
She said many children were able to break the cycle of poverty, because they are given a chance in life.
"Some of the kids we admitted had a drastic improvement in school because they never had to worry where their next meal would come from."
Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy childhood development. According to Stats SA's living conditions survey, in 2015 this was a reality for over 13-million children living in SA.
That shocking statistic is what made humanitarian organisation Joint Aid Management SA (Jam SA) see a need to eradicate poverty among children.
Kelvin Glen, country director at Jam SA, said the organisation provides 122,000 children across the country with a nutritious meal every day. Jam SA also recently received a donation from Rounda.
"We focus on giving meals at early childhood centres mostly in informal settlements and rural areas," Glen said.
They feed children between the ages of six months and five years, as research pointed out that malnutrition of children under the age of five was a problem.
Glen said it cost his organisation R50 a month to feed a child with a nutritious bowl of porridge, and about R600 per child a year.
"The porridge is a precooked blend of milled, heat-treated corn and soybeans that are fortified with a vitamin and mineral premix.
"Each meal contains 75% of a child's daily requirements of macro- and micronutrients," he said.
He said the donation they received from the Nikela Trust will help them provide daily meals for 1,042 kids.

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