At its very essence, Feed the Nation Foundation (FTN) is about bringing nourishment, hope and compassion to those rendered so vulnerable that they are unable to care for themselves. While FTN started as a campaign to bring food assistance to those most affected by the Covid pandemic, since then our reach has extended across the length and breadth of the country to bring food assistance to schoolchildren, shelters, aged-care facilities, orphanages and many other vulnerable communities.
Most recently, when the news of the unrest in Kwa-Zulu Natal broke, we took immediate action and pledged R1 million towards relief efforts, partnering with other aid organisations; and mobilising our teams and operations to provide critically needed assistance on the ground. As with all our operations, we couldn’t have accomplished anything close to what we did without our dedicated teams around the country – the hundreds of men and women who are passionate about improving the lives of others. Our most heartfelt thanks to every one of you for your unwavering commitment to feeding this incredible nation.
August being Women’s Month, we would like to pay special tribute to the women in our organisation – you are all bright, shining stars. Among all our incredible people, two KZN-based women, still reeling from the horror of seeing their own neighbourhoods under siege, wasted no time in getting down to what they do best: making sure the most defenseless, those most impacted by the unrest, speedily received the assistance they so desperately needed.
“My heart was filled with utter despair when the news of the unrest first broke,” says Satika Naidoo, CSI and Events Manager for Pick n Pay’s KZN region. “However, at the same time , I felt impassioned by the scale of work being undertaken by our teams and the community to help clean up and rebuild the area, and I was instantly inspired to be part of it.”
Rowena Govender, Customer Liaison Officer at Durban North Hypermarket, said she was in tears when she first saw the devastation that had been wreaked on her community. She likens it to scenes from a movie, but for Rowena and Satika, it was all too real.
“The streets were barricaded; tires were piled up on roads and burned-out vehicles littered the neighbourhood. Trees were strewn all over the place, many of which I remember being planted many years ago to celebrate Arbour Day when I was still at school – that’s how deep my roots are in my community,” says Rowena of the sight that befell her when she was eventually able to venture outdoors.
When asked how they knew where to start, given the extent of need following the unrest, Satika said she found social media invaluable when it came to assessing the most urgent needs.
“Requests for aid were quickly relayed to us via social media, and this helped us compile a list of priorities and an action plan.
“Within a matter of hours, we had received requests from childcare facilities desperately needing formula, animal shelters experiencing a critical shortage of pet food and aged-care centres urgently needing essentials items.”
Rowena said they were inundated with calls and messages from customers, and she and her team quickly put systems in place, such as arranging for Durban-based NPO, The Domino Foundation, to collect excess bakery products and fresh produce to donate to people in the surrounding areas; and arranging special collection for caregivers at aged-care facilities, where many of the residents were due their chronic medication.
Rowena said there were so many organisations that were in desperate need, but the one that stood out for her was the South African National Blood Services (SANBS).
“I watched on the news as the SANBS offices were destroyed and felt as if my heart would break, I was crying so much. I’ve worked very closely with them over the years and know what a critical shortage of blood there is in the country.”
Satika said the organisation that touched her the most was the NSPCA. “We received numerous communications via email and WhatsApp detailing the severe impact felt by the NSPCA,” she recalls. “Because of the rapid depletion of pet food from our KZN stores, we undertook an emergency pick up from stores around Gauteng. These were transported to the area by truck, along with tonnes of other supplies destined for KZN to provide relief.
In a matter of eight days we were able to provide relief to over 30 organisations*, in addition to assisting countless individuals and families in their personal capacities.
Said Satika: “The residents in my block of flats created a WhatsApp group which helped us prioritise who was most affected and what the specific needs were. Every day I purchased and delivered loaves of bread, vegetables, milk, toilet paper, noodles and baby formula to the families in and around my block – for which they could not have been more grateful. It was devastating seeing people struggle for access to basic supplies, yet I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to make a difference in their lives.
“I have never felt prouder to be part of the Pick n Pay and Feed the Nation families, as this enabled me to be there for my community at a time it was most needed.”
Rowena, echoes this sentiment, saying there were many in need in her area – especially the elderly. “By the time I was able to get to work, many homes had run out of essentials such as bread and milk.
“Most of the local shops were closed following the unrest, so every day before leaving work, I loaded up my car with groceries – it was so full I was afraid the police would stop me, so I made sure my till slips were always close by. As I drove through my area, I handed out bread to the neighbourhood watch teams; and every evening my family and I would make three or four trips to deliver food to families in need.
“Mostly they were at a loss for words when we arrived laden down with bags of bread, milk, other essential items and baby formula, for which there was a desperate need,” said Rowena.
Satika says it was awe-inspiring to see how everyone came together to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. “This proved that all was not lost, despite the chaos of the unrest. An all-around spirit of Ubuntu emanated from the beautiful people of our Rainbow Nation,” she said .
“Despite many limitations and challenges, our team pushed on and elevated our capacity to perform and feed the nation during the unrest and beyond. We were able to steadily supply stock to trading stores, complete rebuilding our DC warehouses in optimal time, and support our community when they needed us the most. Nothing seems impossible when one’s heart is in the right place.”
Rowena said when their store first re-opened after the unrest, they set up chairs in the foyer to accommodate customers as the queues outside were never-ending. She recalls how some customers even went so far as to be at the store at 4am so they could be at the front of the queue when the doors opened. “We are blessed to be a part of this amazing team and may our ship continue to sail in spite of the storm,” she said.
Both Satika and Rowena would like to convey their sincerest thanks to their teams and all the individuals who provided – and who continue to provide – unfailing encouragement and support throughout this harrowing time.
*Relief was provided to the NSPCA, Ukuphila Okuthinta, The Crow, Aryan Benevolent Home, St Martin's Children's Home, Community Life Centre, Issy Geshen Lamont Home for the Aged, South African Children's Resiliency Project, Thandi House, Ridgewood Frail Care Centre, Tongaat Girls and Boys Town, House of Shalom Ikhayalethu Children’s Home, Siyabonga Shelter, William Clark Children’s Centre, Khulani Children’s Shelter, North Bay Lodge, The Lantern Old Age Home, Kruinsig Retirement Home, Elim Homes for the Elderly, Isipingo HAMC Durban, John Dunn House, Team Care Assisted Living Centre, Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre, Greenwood Park Charity Forum, HSBP Soofie Saheb Orphanage and Soup kitchen, Chow Time Community Food Truck, Flowfeeding, Clayton Gardens and Victoria Park aged-care facilities, Domino Baby Home, Awakening Place.