(East London) – For many East London families battling the twin evils of poverty and HIV, a plate of food represents more than a meal – it represents hope.
On Saturday, more than 600 volunteers will descend on Hemingways Mall to join Stop Hunger Now SA’s “Rise4Good Challenge” to pack thousands of nutritious meals, which could play a critical role in supporting effective treatment regimes for people on anti-retroviral medication.
The meal packs, which include rice, soya and soup mix as well as a vitamin and mineral supplement, will be distributed via various local feeding schemes and charitable organisations to the city’s neediest residents.
Among the beneficiaries of this year’s event will be the pupils and families of the independent charity-run Hope Schools in the Wilsonia area of East London. Together, Little Sparklers Educare and Hope Preparatory School cater for 235 children from Grade 00 to Grade 8 – all of whom have been affected, infected or orphaned by HIV.
Many of the pupils are on anti-retroviral medication or have caregivers who are ill, and are dependent on the school’s feeding scheme for their daily dietary needs.
According to headmaster Nigel Raw, almost 90% of the pupils are bussed to and from school each day, where they receive two cooked meals, breakfast and lunch, and healthy snacks as part of their daily routine.
Raw said the almost 9,000 meal packs received following last year’s inaugural Stop Hunger Now event had been incorporated into their school feeding programme. Each meal pack can feed up to 10 children or a family of six.
“We have also been able to provide meal packs to feed the children and their families during the school holidays, when they are at home and not under our care,” he said.
Hemingways Mall marketing manager Estee Roos confirmed that Hope Schools would once again be among the beneficiaries for this year’s event.
“Because the organisation is entirely reliant on donor funding, this event makes a real difference in the lives of these children. They do fantastic work and we try to support them as much as we can.”
Roos said the corporate-sponsored meal packs allowed many such non-profit organisations to divert their sparse funding to other operating costs.
“We are very proud to host the Mandela Day event, which gives corporate sponsors the chance to create maximum impact with minimum effort.”
She said the mechanics of the meal-packing event allowed companies to spend both their time and money wisely. “A team of 20 volunteers, manning one of our ‘production lines’, can pack an average of 3,200 meals during their 67-minute shift.”
Roos said individual members of the public and corporate teams were welcome to volunteer as packers during one of three shifts running throughout the day on Saturday.
In addition, she said a limited number of lines were still available for corporate sponsorship at a cost of R12,000 per line.