World Food Day is marked every year on 16 October – and Woolworths is donating R3 million towards sustainable food security during the course of this year via the EduPlant programme & staff volunteer days in honour of World Food Day.

Founded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Day highlights issues of food security and global hunger. This year’s theme is ‘Family Farming:  Feed the world, caring for the earth’.  It aims to focus attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and better nutrition, improving livelihoods and managing natural resources.

The bulk of the Woolworths Trust donation (R2.6 million) goes to the EduPlant programme, a national schools’ permaculture food gardening programme.  Co-ordinated by national greening and food gardening social enterprise Food & Trees for Africa, EduPlant has been the Trust’s flagship project since 2004 – it has to date donated nearly R20 million.

This long-term partnership has contributed to thousands of educators and learners from hundreds of schools learning about growing food. Some 80% of EduPlant schools supplement their feeding schemes with the food they’ve grown.

In addition to this support, Woolworths employees are volunteering their time and sweat equity at 17 EduPlant schools across the country in honour of World Food Day.  The aim is to help boost the productivity of the food gardens by digging beds, and planting seedlings & trees, as well as donating much-needed tools to the schools.

The first teams of Woolworths volunteers broke ground in September at the food gardens of Bona Lesedi Secondary School (Mamelodi), Phololo Special Needs School (Bloemfontein) Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School (Soweto), Enkwenkwezini Primary School (Port Elizabeth), Musengavhadzimu Primary School (Diepsloot), Rakalo Thabong Primary School (Ga-Rankuwa), Stoneridge Primary School (Alberton), Stanger Special School, and Sentinel Primary School in Cape Town.

During October the rollout will continue at Nothuthuzelo Primary School (East London), Masimini Primary School (Springs), two days at Inxiweni Primary School (Tembisa), Avoca Primary School (Durban), Hugenoot Primary School (Robertson), Hindle Road Primary School (Cape Town) and Emfundisweni Pre-school (Strand).

“Good food, produced in sustainable ways, is at the core of our business,” said Zinzi Mgolodela, Head of Transformation at Woolworths. “That’s why we have made a long-term commitment to improving food security in South Africa by increasing communities’ access to sustainable agricultural practices and resources.

“Over the years, we have seen first-hand how establishing sustainable food systems at schools not only provides children with nutritious food, but also serves as a driver of local community development, transformation to sustainable living and entrepreneurship through selling surplus produce.  Furthermore, by integrating the programme into the school curriculum, we are inculcating in learners the vital skill of growing nutritious food sustainably.

“Many of the EduPlant schools have also found means of producing food while protecting natural ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity.  In this way they have become repositories of vital expertise and experience.”

“One of the critical success factors of the EduPlant programme is sustainable partnerships – rallying communities, learners, educators and Woolies employees to help ‘feed the world & care of the earth’ through permaculture principles ensures the sustainable impact of the programme which talks directly to this year’s theme,” concludes Mgolodela.

EduPlant and Food & Trees for Africa’s founder, Jeunesse Park said: “Our long-term partnership with Woolworths has enabled us to contribute meaningfully to community food security throughout the country over the past 20 years. Their monetary donations – and the commitment shown by the Woolworths staff – have inspired us in our journey towards thriving food secure communities on a sustainable and healthy planet.”