nutrition

Feeding in Famine and for the Future

It is more than a quarter of a century since Nelson Mandela’s acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo. On that auspicious occasion, he articulated his vision for a nation where the children should be “… no longer tortured by the pangs of hunger or ravaged by the disease or threatened with the scourge of ignorance…” Twenty seven years on and that vision is far from being realised in this country. South Africa’s under-five population carries significant marks of malnutrition. As of 2016, more than one in four under-fives showed evidence of stunting and one in eight children in the same age bracket could be categorised as overweight…and the culprit is poor nutrition.

The “hunger, disease and ignorance” Mandela spoke of are often almost inevitable bedfellows in many of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres and schools in South Africa’s less affluent communities and research has shown that there is a direct link between poor nutrition and poor educational outcomes. The University of Cape Town’s 2018 South African Child Gauge reported that six million South African children were living below the poverty line. Children in these circumstances are without reliable access to food, let alone to the right sort of food to ensure healthy development of their ability to learn and to reach their full potential as adults. A guaranteed meal at school is a strong incentive for children from financially-challenged homes to go to school.

The Domino Foundation’s programmes have some 13,566 beneficiaries, the majority of whom are either in pre-primary or primary education. With two of its programmes focusing on Life Skills and Literacy, a third on Early Childhood Development and a fourth on Nutrition, it was inevitable that the teams involved would be keen to develop their interrelationship. Cathy Whittle, leader of the Nutrition programme says: “Our vision is fill the feeding gap and to make ECD Centres so attractive that parents want to send their children to school. We aim to add value to the existing government feeding schemes, allowing children to receive two meals a day. Our dream is of communities where no child is too hungry to concentrate and learn.” Emphasising the Nutrition programme’s specific Christian mandate, she added: “We feed those in our community who are going hungry through a crisis or circumstances beyond their control. In doing so, we enhance learning through meeting children’s physical need for health and balanced nutrition.”

The Nutrition programme’s Crèche Feeding Project provides nutritious meals to children at crèches every week day and encourages their attendance and helps them achieve developmental milestones. The School Sandwich Project has sandwiches delivered to school children who would otherwise have no lunch, providing the learners with ‘food for thought’. This augments the government feeding scheme to ensure that children who may only have a single meal at home get an additional meal designed to promote cognitive development and including carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables.

Monitoring and evaluation have been crucial to ensure that the Domino Foundation’s Nutrition programme remains relevant and effective for consistent impact. Before the Covid crisis burst on South Africa’s marginalised communities, the closely linked areas of nutrition and hygiene had been a focus of Cathy’s teams, with extensive crèche owner training on the subject. Each crèche owner and child was weighed and measured. BMIs were calculated with bi-annual follow-ups scheduled. “The highlighting of obesity and stunting issues gives a clear picture on needed interventions. Our one kitchen averages 80,000 meals each month consisting of a highly nutritious porridge, daily-prepared and delivered soup or dried soup ingredients for crèches to prepare themselves. We aim to have more crèches preparing their own soup, creating space for new crèches to join the programme and pass through the three year graduation phase,” explained Cathy.

That was all before the challenge Domino faces on an ongoing basis was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and Lockdown. Cathy elaborated: “Since 27 March, most of these children have not been to school at all and so could have missed out on that vital daily meal.” Cathy pointed out that not only had extreme hunger become an even greater threat in those communities but so had the negative educational effects of malnutrition.

The Domino Foundation’s Disaster Relief Unit, also led by Cathy, moved into action at the start of Lockdown to meet the basic needs of these young learners and their families. As part of KZN Response, a partnership of five NPOs (Disaster Relief, the Red Cross, Zoe Life, CityHope and Nation Changers), Cathy’s team set about collecting, packing and distributing “Hope Hampers” in and around Durban and beyond. The hampers included basic hygiene items and crucial non-perishable foodstuffs, enough to sustain a family of four for three weeks. Eventually, the equivalent of one million four hundred thousand meals were distributed. “The making of the thousands of sandwiches had to stop but feeding these vulnerable children could not,” declared Cathy. “Individuals, churches, community groups and corporates came on board and bands of masked volunteers made themselves available every day to see thousands of 20 litre buckets packed and loaded.”

At the end of the initial period of hard lockdown on 30 April, the principals of four schools in the Amaoti community in North Durban were consulted and lists of 1,500 vulnerable families drawn up. These were contacted and came to the relevant schools in small ‘socially distanced” groups at specified times to receive relief food parcels.

The days of Lockdown will eventually come to an end, but Cathy and her teams are fully aware that it will not be a matter of ‘back to business-as-usual’. Nutrition is a dynamic, changing programme and the pandemic and its fallout have dramatically changed the landscape. Cathy noted, “Through collaboration with like-minded NPO’s, corporates and individuals, we will continue to streamline our efforts into the relief space, growing and assisting with education in our resilience and preparedness, particularly in the light of the way this pandemic has challenged our abilities, time, resources and partnerships.”

Shaun Tait, CEO of The Domino Foundation, commented how adaptability and agility has characterised the way in which the teams of the various programmes have responded over the past months: “Contingencies and emergency situations have demanded that we pivot and change direction quickly and efficiently to be an answer in present crises and also to remain true to our long-term vision.”

Cathy is always keen to share more on this vital work and welcomes groups, companies and individuals who would like to be part of this ongoing programme to feed the most vulnerable in their time of need to contact her feeding@domino.org.za  or 031 563 9605)

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The BIG picture

We thought it would be super helpful to put all our programmes into a one page “big picture format” for you, to make it easy to identify with our common values and purpose and how each programme interconnects with the other.

The aim is to reduce vulnerability step by step in a beneficiary’s life creating a positive #DominoEffect from Cradle to Career, an beyond!

There are three additional safety net interventions for added support of Human Rights, Disaster Management and protecting the Environment.

We hope this inspires you, as your impact plays it part in this story!

The Domino Programme Infograph

The interconnected #DominoEffect reducing vulnerability from Cradle to Career with additional Safety Net interventions in support!

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FEEDING UPDATE 1st QUARTER

The first few months of 2018 has seen significant growth in the scope of the Feeding programme. Victor Daitz, a humanitarian who supported a wide spectrum of causes and uplifted the lives of many, set up a foundation with the aim of establishing a better life for disadvantaged South Africans. Funding from the Victor Daitz Foundation for 2018 has helped enormously in enabling the Feeding programme to expand its operations, particularly in the areas of Amaoti, Waterloo and Matikwe, North of Durban.

Marcus Kelly, storeroom coordinator, loading relief packs at the new storeroom.

The Stichting Nelis van Dril, a trust based in Holland and which established a relationship with The Domino Foundation in 2017, is fully funding the feeding in the twenty or so institutions in Inanda which came under the Foundation’s umbrella through its Feeding programme. Liesbeth Nicolai, the point-of-contact between the Dutch and Domino, is continuing her involvement with her extensive experience and relationship built with the communities over a quarter of a century, while the Feeding programme supplies the logistical support. The character of the feeding in these areas is different to that already established in the other crèches and schools where prepared meals are supplied. Liesbeth says, “We give the beneficiaries the dried goods, like Morevite and maize meal, with which they prepare the meals. I like to go on the delivery rounds once a month so that I can keep contact with the people I have come to know so well over many years.”

Leader of the feeding programme, Cathy Whittle, says that exciting opportunities to build with other churches are being embraced with a number of them now benefitting from The Domino Foundation’s Feeding programme’s resources and acting as distribution points. With Domino’s Feeding programme as the administrative conduit and each church responsible for distribution after delivery, these groups’ outreaches no longer have to carry the administrative and logistical burdens which are so often challenges for many organisations. This is proving an excellent example of the Foundation providing infrastructural support to allow other groups and outreach initiatives to flourish.

Under the leadership of Lucky Vilakazi and as part of the ongoing vision to empower the Feeding programme’s beneficiaries, the Brookdale Soup Kitchen has standardised its soup recipe. This means that ingredients for the soup can now be supplied to institutions in new areas rather than pre-prepared soup being delivered from the kitchen. The aim is to empower each school to make their own soup and to have the Domino kitchen staff teach each crèche basic nutrition standards. It is gratifying to see the capacity of the Soup Kitchen growing.

The Feeding programme’s extremely beneficial relationship with ‘JAM South Africa’ continues to flourish. With poverty threatening the early development of the majority of South African children, the partnership is addressing the nutritional needs of children in the Feeding programme, setting them on the path to growing into healthy adults. Realising the importance of early childhood development and along with the sandwiches and soup supplied by the programme, JAM’s high protein porridge is a vital component in the growing children’s diet.

Through the Feeding programme, the aim is to grow ‘JAM Feeding’ through site-specific churches. The Domino Foundation delivers the 25 kg bags of porridge to each church which then acts as a central distribution node to the crèches with whom it already have a relationship. With repetition, this creates an efficient distribution-through-relationship model. Glenridge Church is the first church to implement the model. A nutritional food hygiene programme for each of the crèches is being formulated and a generic crèche report being compiled to create a rating system to measure the infrastructure of the crèches and to assess individual needs.

The South Feeding programme in Amanzimtoti, working under ‘Kingsway Church International’ (KCi), has found new premises for The Domino Foundation Toti Kitchen as from May 2018. With the exciting development of taking on an extra 3000 beneficiaries in May, the programme is finding its capacities stretched and is offering potential donors and partners to come on board to support the logistical side of operations in the areas of transport and large electrical equipment like freezers. With a total of 49 000 sandwiches having been supplied to sixteen institutions in the first term, the programme also continues to supply schools, churches and centres with bread, peanut butter and margarine, to create a self-help culture among the beneficiary groups. Never shy of taking on new challenges, team leader, Cheryl Dann, is negotiating with JAM to take over the crèches under the KwaMakutha Organisation of Crèches.

If you would like to partner with our Feeding programme, please contact Cathy Whittle (feeding@domino.org.za) for North of the Umgeni River or Cheryl Dann (feedingtoti@domino.org.za) for South Feeding support.

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