At a time when generosity and standing together is so important, Midlands residents and farmers have responded with vigour to a call to provide produce to boost the feeding scheme that assists Bruntville Primary School in Mooi River.
One of the instigators, Emma Niland, of the farm Linford in the Mooi River area, said: “I saw what Robyn (Gruijters) had started in the Lidgetton area and thought we should do something similar in Bruntville.”
Action in isolation
Robyn started a project, with a Facebook group titled @action in isolation, to provide food to school children in Lidgetton during the Covid-19 crisis (with schools closed). Now, Emma said, the Bruntville project has joined forces with @action in isolation. The latter has five feeding schemes, from Lidgetton to Mooi River (including Bruntville).
Departmental head at the school Gregory Radebe told The Meander Chronicle that the Bruntville Primary initiative had roots back to when head Protus Sokhela initiated a Meals on Wheels programme.
Sokhela was concerned that pupils were struggling to get a healthy diet, which was impacting on their wellbeing and capacity for learning.
In association with a local organisation and food distribution hub, Lighthouse, said Radebe, the school developed a breakfast feeding scheme, which is still going strong. This had been extended and some children were now getting a meal at Lighthouse after school or taking something home to eat.
The need is great, with about 1500 pupils at the school, and a number of concerned parties have worked together as the “Food Angels” to try to ensure pupils get sufficient nutritious food to boost their diets.
School nutrition programme
Gruijters commented: “After the initial presidential address I was really concerned about the number of kids whose only meal is often the one they receive as part of their school nutritional programme. I decided to put out a call to friends or family who may be keen to contribute towards soup and sandwiches for those in my nearest rural communities.
“Thanks to the immense generosity of so many we have extended our reach to include five feeding points, including the one in Bruntville.
“With all the uncertainty (due to coronavirus) we have had to be flexible, but at present are providing meals in small community groups and food parcels for those we are unable to feed due to location or logistics.”
Kim McNally, who is a partner with Sokhela in numerous initiatives at Bruntville Primary, under the Partners for Possibility programme, said the response had been outstanding, with all sorts of donations of food and produce were coming in.
Niland said they were asking the community to chip in with whatever they could to help families in need. “We have had an amazing response and are so grateful.” Initially they aimed to operate during the extended break while schools were closed due to the coronavirus crisis, but the initiative might carry on once schools returned.
Contributions ranged from meat bones (Linga Lapa) to funds and resources provided by action in isolation donors, donations of vegetables from Niland, chicken, and even a cow to provide meat, courtesy of farmer James Kean.
Radebe helps co-ordinate the drive in his spare time.
Gruijters said, “We have been so grateful to receive huge assistance from the local community, many farmers, people overseas, local businesses, the list is endless.”
Kean, who farms in the Mooi River area at Mearns farm, is an active member of uMati (Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative), a non-profit organisation established to champion transformation in the agriculture and tourism sectors, where commercial farmers mentor and facilitate socio-economic development in the upper Midlands.
According to its Facebook page, “this will be done through strategic institutional support of various transformation projects, infrastructural development and education”.
Ian Mackay, well-known owner of Linga Lapa restaurant and butchery, said they were just one of many who had made a contribution. “Any time we can help someone local who is struggling we are happy to try to get involved. Particularly at such a difficult time as this.”