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New SA Harvest Garden Route branch set to deliver 100,000 meals a month

As part of its expansion plan to enable greater geographical reach, SA’s fastest-growing food rescue organisation, SA Harvest, has opened its fourth branch – this time in George in the Western Cape. This move will establish a base that will extend operations into the southern region of the Eastern Cape where a boost in food security is desperately needed, and to join forces with existing operations in the Garden Route area.

SA Harvest operates in six provinces, with branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and now in George. Since it launched two years ago, the NPO has delivered over 12 million meals to food vulnerable communities by rescuing over 3,6 million kilograms of food. This equates to more than 15,000 meals every day.

The new George branch is located in Glaze Street and has a team of five, headed by Carl van Blerk, newly appointed Operations Manager of SA Harvest Garden Route. It has an initial target of delivering 100,000 meals a month, which will scale up to 150,000 within the first 12 months. The branch covers the entire Garden Route, Klein Karoo, and Central Karoo, including the municipalities of Hessequa, Mossel bay, Kannaland, Oudtshoorn, George, Knysna, Bitou, Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Prince Albert.

Van Blerk explains the background to the launch of the new branch. “In December 2020 I set up the Garden Route Food Pantry, which sourced and delivered food to local areas of dire need. Soon after that, I connected with SA Harvest to investigate opportunities for joining forces to ease the poverty and hunger in the region. This culminated in the official opening of the SA Harvest Garden Route branch. Now, with the groundwork done, combined with the expertise and network of SA Harvest, the Garden Route branch is ready to serve the local community.”

Van Blerk adds that, apart from food rescue, additional sustainability initiatives by the Garden Route branch will include a strong focus on fortified foods to continue the battle against malnutrition, with in-house production of Good4You nutritional biscuits for children; and community gardening programmes to ensure long-term sustainability for organisations that provide food resources, such as feeding centres and soup kitchens.

The basic infrastructure and partnerships established through Garden Route Food Pantry, which is being completely absorbed under the SA Harvest Garden Route banner, will now be expanded with additional delivery vehicles, cold room storage, and other relevant systems.

Alan Browde, CEO of SA Harvest, says the Eastern Cape has always been on SA Harvest’s radar as one of the most depleted regions in South Africa. “We’re excited that we’re able to open this branch with a sound infrastructure in place, and significantly expand the reach of our organisation, through strong backing and support from key stakeholders in the area.”

Browde says the SA Harvest digital platform will be as fundamental to the success of the Garden Route operations as it has been for the rest of the organisation. “Our platform is a bespoke digital tool that ensures transparency, safety and, as importantly, SA Harvest’s ability to report on our impact to food donors, financial donors and our beneficiaries. It also has many other functions that ensure the efficient operation of the organisation,” says Browde. From a Garden Route perspective, the platform will be a significant help in vetting more than 200 beneficiaries up to SA Harvest’s standards, and for all beneficiaries in the future.

According to 2019 figures, the Garden Route has a combined municipal population of 616 034, which includes 51 491 households with a combined income of less than R3 200 per month – which means hunger and malnutrition in the area is a priority concern.

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