SEATTLE, Washington — South Africa, one of the most industrialized countries in Africa, also has a significant poverty rate with about 49.2% of its population living below the upper-bound poverty line. Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces both have poverty rates of over 67% and have the highest child poverty rates in the country as well. Throughout the country, 26% of residents face hunger while another 28% are at risk, due in part to the fact that poor households have to spend nearly 50% of their income on food. South African restaurants stepped up during COVID-19 to help alleviate hunger and poverty in the country.
COVID-19 and Hunger in South Africa
In June 2020, two out of five adults reported that their household had lost its main source of income as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, and during this period, 21% reported that someone in the household went hungry in the last seven days. Additionally, 47% of people reported that their home ran out of money to buy food in April. Although the country has started to reopen in its economy, months of food insecurity for many families has had disastrous effects on local economies and hunger rates. Farmers and fishers who often supply restaurants and markets faced economic hardship as orders dwindled.
However, South African restaurants have been at the forefront of assisting the country’s poor, especially families hit hard by the pandemic. Due to a decline in international tourism, fine dining South African restaurants were hit particularly hard, yet many have sacrificed revenues to assist families in need of food. The pandemic stripped away many jobs yet empowered restaurant owners to transform their normally busy kitchens into pantries and soup kitchens for the poor.
Cape Town Restaurants Give Back to Communities
Massimo’s, a popular pizza spot in Cape Town, has been raising money throughout the pandemic to help provide food to the homeless. So far, the restaurant has raised over R215,000 as part of its pay-it-forward campaign. Additionally, while Massimo’s closed the restaurant for a few months during the pandemic, the owners kept the kitchen open and collaborated with Gracie Love in a Bowl, Community Cook Up IY and CCP to assist the hungry. Before COVID-19, Massimo’s had a program in which customers could buy virtual pizza slices and Massimo’s would deliver an entire pizza to a local charity for every six slices sold.
South African restaurant, Cowboys & Cooks, prepared wholesome meals to feed hungry children around Cape Town. The restaurant allocated funds to its chefs like Chef Lulu, who prepared meals for dozens of children in her neighborhood of Masiphumelele. Similarly, Indian eatery, Ramzi’s Food, was able to feed up to 5,000 people per day during Ramadan by selling full pots of food at significantly reduced prices. Cafe Extrablatt also started the #extrablatthungerdrive, in which the restaurant encouraged food donations like fruit, vegetables and off-cuts of meat to prepare hot meals that would be distributed throughout the community, including shelters.
A number of Cape Town eateries have also partnered with charitable organizations to fight poverty and protect the environment. Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia teamed up with Soil for Life, an organization that aims to teach people how to grow their own food while protecting the environment. Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room partnered with the Umthunzi Farming Community, which supplies seasonal and local produce grown by small-scale farmers. Table Mountain Café, a popular eatery at the top of Table Mountain, supports Kuyasa, a low-carbon housing development in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, that has installed solar water heaters and ceilings in over 2,000 houses in poor areas.
Johannesburg Restaurants Fight Hunger and Poverty
In May, South African restaurant guide, Eat Out, launched the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund in partnership with Community Chest, which raised and distributed R980,000 to 32 restaurants to make over half a million meals for the country’s hungry population. Among participating restaurants are Jackson’s Real Food Market and Eatery in Johannesburg, which has distributed thousands of meals to the city’s poor. Additionally, the Indian restaurant, Thava, fed over 1,000 people every day from its community kitchen.
Thava also partnered with NOSH Food Rescue to create Chefs with Compassion, which has tried to fill the need for sustainable meal production in vulnerable communities. In the program’s fifth week, collaborating chefs and restaurants produced 36,681 meals, many of which were supplied by produce that would have been discarded.
Franschhoek Combats COVID-19 Through Cooking and Education
Franschhoek, a town in South Africa’s Western Cape, has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown since much of its revenue comes from restaurants and tourism. With schools closed and many jobs in the hospitality industry lost, Chef Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français began Disaster Management Franschhoek, which brought together a group of Franschhoek chefs to cook weekly food packs sent out to over 500 vulnerable families.
Additionally, South African restaurant, The Werf at Boschendal, features a school on its farm that teaches sustainability methods to children. With books and educational toys, the farm and restaurant teach children from all backgrounds about reducing food waste and helping the agriculture industry grow so that employment levels can rise and food insecurity can diminish.
Despite being closed for business due to early lockdown restrictions, South African restaurants used the opportunity to help alleviate hunger and poverty in the country during COVID-19.
– Noah Sheidlower