Home » World Food Day » When schools close, children go hungry

Marion Wagner

Director, Breadline Africa

For over 27 years, Breadline Africa has worked to support vulnerable children in South Africa, providing early childhood development infrastructure to disadvantaged communities.

Many South African children do not have adequate spaces to learn, so, by converting shipping containers into classrooms, libraries, kitchen and toilet units, we provide thousands of children with the opportunity to escape poverty through education.

South Africa instituted one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns, closing all schools, businesses and non-essential services abruptly. We immediately realised the implications of these measures on an economy already severely strained with high unemployment. Thousands of households living hand-to-mouth would have no means of putting food on the table.

School closures meant that many children would be deprived of their school meals. Most South African children rely on their school for their main source of nutrition for the day. We were now facing a humanitarian crisis of hunger.

Most South African children rely on their school for their main source of nutrition for the day

Weekly food distributions to those in need

We immediately launched an emergency feeding programme to ensure that these children received a warm daily meal. Dry ingredients and fresh vegetables were – and continue to be – distributed weekly to food stations.

The programme started with a handful of our beneficiary sites around the Western Cape. But, every week, we received more appeals for ingredients from partners and community members and the queues at the stations grew longer. Children as young as three years old lined up day after day with empty plastic containers. Within months we were providing over 82,000 weekly meals to 40 food stations across four provinces and passed the one million meal mark in July.

As lockdown eased in August, schools gradually re-opened, but the pre-schools continue to face greater challenges. Many are unable to meet social distancing.

Centres require additional classrooms and hygienic kitchens and toilets to align with our mission of providing safe learning spaces. The lingering economic impact of this pandemic requires our food distribution programme to continue well into 2021 and will run in parallel to our infrastructure programme.

We are eternally grateful to our donors who answered our call for support.

If you would like to learn more about our work and to support our emergency feeding programme (£0.12 funds one meal), please visit www.breadlineafrica.org or contact our UK office at +44 (0) 1473 259048.

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