Woolworths has announced that it is joining forces with national non-profit organisation (NPO), FoodForward SA to increase access to food across the country. The new partnership, which includes a R3 million commitment over the next three years, will focus on increasing the organisation’s capacity to re-distribute the edible, surplus food it collects from producers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. This equates to FoodForward SA being able to deliver an additional 1.2 million meals per year to the needy.

14 million South Africans go hungry every day, but it would be wrong to assume this is due to food shortages in the country. On the contrary, a shocking one third of the food produced in South Africa goes to our landfills. The country produces more than enough food, but those who need it most cannot effectively access the surplus.

Zinzi Mgolodela, Woolworths Head of Corporate Affairs points out that FoodForward SA’s vision of a South Africa without hunger is one that Woolworths shares. She says, “The organisation is playing a vital role in South Africa to address an international challenge. Woolworths welcomed the opportunity to partner and assist FoodForward SA in enhancing their capacity to get food to the communities who need it and so reduce hunger. The funding is only one aspect of the partnership. As a food business with a countrywide footprint and extensive experience in getting quality food to where it is supposed to go at the right time, we aim to open up opportunities for FoodForward SA to not just increase efficiencies but also its access to good food.”

FoodForward SA connects a world of excess to a world of need through its recovery of food that is perfectly edible but destined for landfills, and then its distribution to a wide network of other NPOs. The organisation was formed in 2009, and last year alone it delivered 4 400 tonnes of food to 600 NPOs, which resulted in 17.6 million meals for 250 000 hungry South Africans.

Andy Du Plessis, FoodForward SA Managing Director, commended Woolworths for consulting with them to ascertain where the three-year funding could help to make the best difference to the organisation’s efforts. He says: “We are delighted to have Woolworths on board with this project to build our logistical capacity. We look forward to a range of opportunities to help bring our operations up to scale so that we get more surplus food to those who are hungry. With this partnership in place, we look forward to being able to efficiently access more food; and then also increase our redistribution to those in need to achieve food security for all South Africans.”

With food security as a corporate focus area, Mgolodela says that the new FoodForward SA partnership complements Woolworths’ existing food security projects, such as its 15-year sponsorship of Food & Trees for Africa’s EduPlant programme. This schools permaculture food gardening initiative helps school communities improve food access, availability and utilisation. Woolworths’ own surplus food donations are mostly managed at store level to the benefit of local communities across the country. Last year, R556 million’s worth of Woolworths food, not sold before the ‘sell by date’ but still within the ‘use by date’, was donated directly from stores to charities.