In the rural areas in South Africa, a common thing to do for food insecure children is provide food parcels. Of course, this is not the best development option, but it is important to make sure children aren’t going hungry at night, and the food parcels help with short term food insecurity.
At Xitsavi, we have identified about 90 OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) who receive food parcels on a regular basis. I was at work last Wednesday when I noticed cans of beans and fish being set out along the lawn, and I knew they were preparing to hand out food parcels. I went over to help sort the food and distribute. To me, the food parcels seemed a little nutty: 12.5kg of mealie meal, 2 cans of fish, 2 cans of beans, tea, oil, 1kg of sugar, 2kg of rice, creamer, 10 soup mix packets, morvite (breakfast porridge), 5 bullion packets, 1 packet of curry powder, and 1 tube of toothpaste. Nothing fresh, very little protein, but it’s food that the children are used to eating and that the adults can easily cook. I probably would have selected a few different things, but overall it was a good food parcels for the kids.
The process ended up taking a few hours. Parents had to come pick up the packages, otherwise the children would try to sell the food on the way home. Plus, that’s a heavy load for a kid to carry. It was fascinating to watch the process. The parents had to sign for the food, then the families would go two by two to collect their parcel. Hardly anyone brought sacks to carry things in, and the centre didn’t have any. So people got pretty creative in how they managed to carry the stuff. Most of the women would carry the 12.5kg (25lb) of maize meal on their heads, which still impresses me, and the kid would load up their backpacks with the both things.
Most of the food is probably already gone, even though it’s only been a week. I did a quick approximation of the amount a person would spend buying all of that stuff at the store, and it came up to about R300. When a family only makes perhaps R1200 or R1500 a month, that makes a big difference in the monthly grocery bill!