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How digital innovation is improving food security in SA

Almost half of South Africa’s population – 30 million people – face food insecurity. Poverty, unemployment and the pandemic are making things worse. Yet, one third of all our food that is produced in South Africa is lost or wasted, having a devastating impact on the environment.

FoodShare is having a significant impact in reducing this negative impact. While the food is readily available for use, the management of the collection and distribution has been digitised.FoodShare connects food donors, such as the major retailers, to approved beneficiary organisations in FoodForward SA’s network, that implement feeding programmes in under-served communities.

By digitising the management and distribution of surplus food donations at retail stores, good quality edible surplus food is intercepted sooner, while it is still good for human consumption, and at scale, is a viable food security solution.Beneficiary organisations (BOs) apply online and are then vetted by FoodForward SA before becoming part of their network’s ecosystem.

How it works

Using reverse billing USSD cell phone technology, which costs significantly less than communicating via SMS or internet, BOs are assigned collection slots to pick-up the surplus food from participating retail stores. Prior to each collection, authorised collection staff are sent a unique code, which is given to the store to verify. Once verified, the BO can take the food, weigh the groceries in specific categories, and input the tonnage into FoodShare. There are no costs to the BOs, since all the USSD costs are covered by FoodForward SA. Furthermore, the USSD functionality is not smartphone dependent, thus allowing for all phone types to use the tech.

All the data is securely stored in the cloud, allowing for predictive data analysis in real time from anywhere. The FoodShare platform is currently being upgraded, to allow for WhatsApp integration, the management of food collections from FoodForward SA’s warehouses and Mobile Rural Depots, and a report writing tool among others.

Economic benefits and Scalability

Since the platform can be used anywhere in South Africa, the technology is easily scalable, and increases access to food in vulnerable communities quite significantly. And, while creating access to food is the primary objective, there are two further advantages. The first is that we offer a B2B solution: we solve a growing problem in the retail sector, relating to the management of surplus food, and we are saving the environment because food is being diverted away from landfills and distributed to BOs in the local community.
FoodForward SA has been internationally recognised for its innovative work in food security solutions and has received awards both locally and abroad.

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