Poultry industry lends a hand to vulnerable community

Chicken producer donates a tonne of chicken to add protein to vegetables and maize meal relief packs

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For 222 vulnerable Pretoria families hard hit by the covid-19 lockdown, a collaboration between the chicken industry and non-profits WeCan and Atterbury Trust has delivered hope in the form of food parcels to alleviate the hunger that haunts this community.

According to principal Erich Cloete, several of the families whose children attend Westerlig Primary School in the west of Pretoria live a hand-to-mouth existence that has been severely impacted by the lockdown. The meals provided by the school’s kitchen is sometimes the only food that some of these children have in a day, and with lockdown regulations limiting school access, hunger has become an even bigger spectre.

When Izaak Breitenbach, a general manager at the SA Poultry Association (Sapa), learnt of WeCan and Atterbury Trust’s food drive for Westerlig, he realised that the chicken industry could lend a hand to add much needed protein to the vegetable and maize-meal packs that were being offered in this drive.

‘We also noted that now when people do buy chicken, they often choose the cheaper cuts…’

“As the producers of South Africans’ most widely consumed meat, we have been very aware of the effects of lockdown on people’s spending power. Chicken is the most affordable and most popular meat in South Africa, but still we have experienced a noticeable reduction in demand,” said Breitenbach.

“We also noted that now when people do buy chicken, they often choose the cheaper cuts, which directly highlights the reality lived by most South Africans. And for really disadvantaged communities all forms of meat are often unaffordable, which is why the plight of Westerlig Primary really touched our hearts.”

Westerlig Primary School provides meals to learners, often the only meal some of the children have every day. Photo: Supplied

Breitenbach reached out to Sapa’s members, and got an immediate response from Country Bird Holdings, who owns the Supreme Chicken brand. CEO Marthinus Stander committed a donation of a tonne of Supreme Chicken portions to WeCan’s feeding projects, starting with the Westerlig Primary food drive.

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“We have close relationships with the communities where our processing plants are located and that is generally where we focus our aid efforts,” said Stander. CBH’s plants have remained operational during lockdown, so fortunately no jobs have been lost, but the company nonetheless donated more than five tonnes of chicken in the surrounding communities during lockdown.

“But we have more to give, and it is fortuitous to find trustworthy organisations to partner with, that ensures that the meat reaches the people who truly need it most,” said Stander. “There is so much grinding need in South Africa at the moment, and we are honoured to play a small role the battle against hunger.”

Chicken was included in 222 food packs distributed to the families of children attending Westerlig Primary in Pretoria. Photo: Supplied

Almost half of the donation, 440kg in two-kilo portion packs, were distributed to the community at Westerlig Primary last Friday, in food parcels also containing 6kg of vegetables and 2.5kg maize meal. Emotions ran high as people who had lost their jobs, and who have been battling to feed their families, waited their turn to collect a relief parcel amid strict social distancing measures.

According to Breitenbach, the remaining 560 kilos will be used by WeCan to provide meals in another upcoming food project.

“As a proudly South African industry we are hoping to expand this project further to make a tangible difference in the battle against hunger. Covid-19 has taught us a very clear lesson – we are all dependent on each other as South Africans, and whether we are individuals or industries, we have to be able to rely on each other’s support to get us through this challenge and rebuild the economy on the other side,” said Breitenbach.

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