World Hunger Day sees many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives take flight. Teams of employees pack boxes full of non-perishable goods for hungry communities and share their good work on social media.
This is an open letter to business from the Institute of Risk Management of South Africa (IRMSA).
Feeding programmes get an influx of help and social media is flooded with a stream of #volunteer selfies. Retailers place shopping trolleys for food donations at store entrances so that shoppers can #makeadifference.
The ‘fight against hunger’ box is ticked for another year.
What if, instead of seeing hunger as a ‘do-good’ activity, corporates saw decreasing global food security for what it is: the risk with impending probability and disastrous impact?
What if, instead of being prompted by marketing teams to ‘do something for World Hunger Day’, top executives – and boards – of companies proactively created long term sustainable plans to address and eventually prevent the effect on hunger on the global economic climate?
Children that are malnourished struggle to benefit from education, even if they have access to education. Top scoring candidates won’t be considered for job opportunities simply because they have a criminal record from that one time, they had to steal to feed an ailing family member.
Entrepreneurs that can only afford to feed their family and not themselves struggle to ‘be the best they can be’ for national economic growth; hunger simply saps their energy. Community leaders can’t ‘engage productively’ about a new infrastructure project with their ears ringing from the hunger pleas of their constituents.
There is so much money going around. Surely a portion of it can be invested to feed the next Patrice Motsepe, Magda Wierscka, Michael Jordaan … Cyril Ramaphosa? And surely those tasked with feeding our next generation of business and nation leaders should be kept to task when they mismanage those funds?
The crisis of hunger seems to bring up more debate and questions, and not nearly enough solutions. When solutions are discussed it seems that the wheel keeps on being reinvented, but it never really gets rolling fast enough, or at all.
Why does everyone want to go at it alone? Why not partner with those that are already experts in getting the right food to the right communities within a system that doesn’t fall victim to fraud and corruption?
Earlier in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on food programmes IRMSA – Institute of Risk Management South Africa – identified the risks of civil unrest and an increase in crime related to food scarcity that might be triggered by the national lockdown.
IRMSA also identified FoodForward SA as a company that has been around long enough, with a solid enough track record to significantly relieve the persistent hunger of vulnerable South Africans.
In the words of Andy Du Plessis, Managing Director of FoodForward SA: “We use quality edible surplus food from the supply chain, so our model is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Because all the food is donated, it costs us only R0,85 to provide one meal. We also prioritise providing food to the most vulnerable groups – children, women and youth. And, since 75% of our beneficiary organisations focus on education, skills development, women and youth, our food is a catalyst for social change in under-served communities.”
Since the start of lock down FoodForwardSA has been able to distribute 5,300 tons of food, amounting to 21 million meals, to vulnerable communities across the country. The organisation was able to achieve this through the support of donors that include a heartening number of big SA brands.
While lockdown has been lifted for the most part, the hunger of vulnerable South Africans haven’t. And since hunger isn’t something you solve once, but something that comes around three times a day, the solution can’t rely on the dedication of a few.
More funds need to reach the hands of organisations already set up to serve without lining their own pockets.
Solving the hunger crisis isn’t easy, but it’s vital.
Any company that wants to grow needs a stable economy and an eager workforce. Hunger threatens both. It’s time for big business to stop just ticking the ‘fight against hunger box’ and start truly solving the hunger crisis.