Food the way forward for South African charity

01 Mar 2017

Like many people who equate food waste with scraps left on a plate, Macquarie Securities Izan Zybrands admits that five years ago he was largely ignorant of the amount of productive food that ends up in landfill.

Since he met with the CEO of FoodForward SA (previously known as FoodBank SA), Zybrands has helped build momentum within Macquarie’s Cape Town office to support the charity in alleviating hunger, malnutrition and the environmental problems associated with food waste. FoodForward collects edible surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and then redistributes it to hundreds of other non-profits that collectively feed thousands across South Africa.

More than ZAR150,000 has been raised or donated to FoodForward SA by Macquarie staff since 2012, including matching from the Macquarie Group Foundation.

Zybrands says that one of the great things about Macquarie’s support for FoodForward is that most of the staff in the 35-strong office have contributed in different ways.

This has ranged from participating in the ‘Gun Run’, one of Cape Town’s most popular half-marathons, entering a team in the Mandela Day Hamper Packing event to see how many hampers could be packed in 67 minutes (marking the number of years Nelson Mandela fought for justice), and collecting non-perishable food items for donation.

With the hamper event, a Macquarie volunteer team of eight sorted and packed rescued food, and transported hampers to trucks for delivery.

“Getting out of the office and putting in some physical effort for a tangible result really brought the message home of what it means to serve the community,” Zybrands notes, adding that the experience of visiting FoodForward’s warehouse and seeing what happens to food waste directly is illuminating.

As part of Macquarie’s Foundation Week in October 2016, which also coincided with World Food Day, Cape Town employees volunteered to collect 45 kilos of food (providing 150 meals). The office also challenged their colleagues in Macquarie’s Johannesburg office to beat their food drive efforts.

“Johannesburg actually went one better and collected ZAR1,000 from staff to donate to FoodForward,” says Zybrands. “The cherry on top was the fact that the Foundation recognised our food drive with a further $AUD500 mini- grant to the charity.”

For Zybrands personally, the Gun Run was particularly inspiring given it was his first half-marathon event, and it motivated him to take up running more regularly. “It was an unforgettable experience, made all the more special by the fact that I was running for a purpose,” he says now. “I think if you take something that’s already a passion such as getting fit through cycling or running – and we have a pretty active office here in Cape Town - you can get more people involved in a good cause by combining both things.”

This interest may also serve FoodForward well in future as it launches a new initiative known as Feat For Food. The ‘feat’ can be anything a person wishes to accomplish, from competing in a triathlon to hosting a wine and cheese night.

“I’ve found people are motivated to support FoodForward because it’s a local charity, it’s addressing both a global and a local need and it’s very efficiently run,” Zybrands says.

“A donation of ZAR400 ($A40 or $US30) can feed one person for a whole year. And because they are also putting together nutritious meals, the impact goes much further, including helping children develop at school and allowing community organisations working with the most vulnerable people to focus on other things.”

With FoodForward SA part of the Global FoodBanking Network, which has a presence in 34 countries, Zybrands is also keen to encourage people who are concerned about local or global hunger issues to find the nearest foodbank and get involved.

“You could say hunger is such a big problem but there are organisations who have a vision to do something about it - so even if you only make a small donation or volunteer once a year, you’re making a difference and are part of the solution.”

Image caption: FoodForward SA has been a charity of choice for Macquarie’s Cape Town office for the last five years.