Covid-19 boosts charity’s capacity to feed those in need by sixteen timesPublished on 04 Sep 2020
How SA Harvest went from supplying 5,000 to 80,000 meals a week.
Gidon Novick, Chairman of SA Harvest, is acutely aware of waste. As the former chief executive of Comair, he knows all too well about the many wasted airline meals discarded daily. “In South Africa, we throw out a lot of food – there is a culture of excess. Nowhere is it as visible, though, as in the aviation industry,” he told guests at a recent Stonehage Fleming webinar, titled: When the world is in crisis, how do you adapt, react and create meaningful impact?
“Compare this to the people rummaging through bins for food every day and you realise something is fundamentally wrong,” he continued. “SA Harvest tries to correct the balance in a small way.”
Every day, 18m South African men, women and children go to bed hungry according to SA Harvest’s website. The charity launched in October 2019 to repurpose food – picking up leftover food from restaurants and distributing it to organisations that supply the hungry in South Africa. The quantities were small as making various stops for collection were time-consuming and not scalable.
When lockdown was imposed in March 2020 to combat the spread of Covid-19, suddenly there were no restaurants, so no food to distribute. It could have spelled the end for SA Harvest but Gidon and his team realised they needed to think again and access food higher up the supply chain. “Like most people, when lockdown was announced in South Africa, we felt helpless but knew we couldn’t stop our work,” said Gidon. “On the first day, we went into an airline catering kitchen and they had masses of food to donate. That was the first step in scaling the business.”
As well as contributions from airline caterers, SA Harvest started talking to farmers, retailers and other food producers. Whereas before their sources were limited, these new relationships enabled SA Harvest to supply much bigger volumes – boosting the number of meals they were able to provide from 5,000 to 80,000 a week to beneficiary organisations including shelters and soup kitchens.
“The only difference between a non-profit organisation and a ‘normal’ business is that our outcome is impact and not profit. All entrepreneurs strive to scale up their businesses successfully,” said Gidon. For SA Harvest, that scalability turned out to be huge. “Little did we know, it would be a global pandemic that allowed us to scale beyond all expectations.”
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Photo credit: Ben White, Unsplash