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Joburg Market’s food hub aims to eradicate hunger

The food is delivered directly to people in need by the hub's partner agencies.

The Joburg City’s food hub at Joburg Market in City Deep provides immediate relief to thousands of food-insecure communities, assisting in the eradication of hunger among the most vulnerable residents while improving food security.

The market intends to assist vulnerable people in gaining access to the nutritious food they require to live healthy, active lives and to reduce food waste by redirecting surplus or unsold food to those in need.

Donny Phakwayo, the director of the Food Resilient Unit in the Department of Social Development, said, “Our aim as the Joburg Market food hub is to ensure our communities access their basic needs, especially food. Fulfilling this objective prevents children from missing school because of hunger.”

Over the last 18 years, the Joburg Market food hub has served thousands of weekly beneficiaries. They distribute about 40 000 vegetable parcels per month, between Thursday and Friday, to a network of non-profit community agencies such as soup kitchens, orphanages, homeless shelters, poverty-stricken crèches, disability centres, schools, old aged homes and indigent families unable to cover funeral costs.

The food hub also offers emergency food assistance to families in need.

The food is delivered directly to people in need by the hub’s partner agencies, who either serve meals at their facilities or give people bags or boxes of food to take home.

Simon Motsusi, sub-unit head for the food value chain in the Food Resilient Unit, said: “We mostly distribute food that has a high nutritional value, also depending on the season. Our current food parcel consists of seven types of vegetables, including cabbage, butternut, potatoes, onions, beetroot, carrots and green beans.”

Non-perishable food also forms part of the items the beneficiaries receive.

According to Mordor Intelligence, a market research firm, food demand is expected to double by 2035. Motsusi said the food hub does more than just provide food parcels, It also teaches its beneficiaries farming skills. Some of the recipients have transformed their backyards into vegetable gardens, which they harvest at their leisure.

“As a result of the economy’s contraction, we face social challenges. The number of people who have benefited from this initiative has grown over time and we may no longer be able to provide this level of assistance. That is why we teach people how to start their gardens and grow their food,” he explained.

To fulfil its mandate, the food hub relies on donors and obtains food from a variety of sources who give generously. This includes donations from farmers, market agents, exporters and retailers.

Before being distributed to those in need, the food is stored in a pantry in City Deep.

All products donated must undergo a quality assurance inspection to ensure they are safe. The market’s food technicians determine which of the donated foods are fit for human consumption before they are distributed.

Every week, the food hub retrieves foodstuff marked as unclaimed and unaccounted-for on the market floor by security. It also spends its allocated budget on fresh produce for NGOs and low-income households, thus meeting donors halfway.

Vegetables from Joburg market include cabbage, butternut, potatoes, onions, beetroot, carrots, and green beans.

The food hub also receives a significant portion of its donations from agents, who have excess food that they are unable to sell in the normal course of business.

Phakwayo said the food hub does not deal directly with individuals but with registered non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which then hand over the food parcels from the market to communities identified as vulnerable.

To be eligible for food grants, NGOs need to meet certain requirements, including having a professional profile, a non-profit organisation certificate and having completed a registration form from the Joburg Market food hub.

The city’s food hub also collaborates with local and international NGOs, including Gift of the Givers, United Ways South Africa and Feed Foundation, to name a few.

“We also consider referrals from community leaders, but the referred people must undergo a process of assessing whether they qualify to benefit from this initiative,” Motsusi said.

The food hub is affiliated with the Perishable Products Export Control Board, the Personal Managers Association (PMA), the South African Union of Food Markets and the South African National Accreditation System testing laboratory.

These entities work together to collect, sort and review food for quality before allocating it to beneficiaries.

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