Shelters struggle with rising food costs

Date: January 1, 1970
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Most people across Southern Africa, and globally, are feeling the pinch of the current economic crisis. For many families, the escalating cost of food means fewer trips to the grocery store. Yet for social service organisations with many mouths to feed, such as shelters for children or places of safety for women and girls, the economic crisis has hit even harder.

The rising food prices affect most countries, but strike the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries hardest. Consumers are now spending more than they used to before, for the same products. This holds true for organisations. To make matters worse, with less disposable income for almost everyone, donations are also drying up.
Like many across the region, organisations in Johannesburg are finding their cash stretched to the limit. For example, According to Janine Delange from Ikhaya Lethemba, place of safety for women and children, they shelter used to spend R4000 on food, but now they are spending R6000 which is “excessively too much” on their tight budget.  Themba Mahlobo of the Strathyre Home for Girls concurs, “It has been difficult for us as we are now spending much more than we used to.”
Organisations are finding they need to spend more, with less support. According to Nicole Tiny, a volunteer at Christ Church Christian Care Centre, as a non-profit, the organisation depends heavily on donations, which tend to dry up in difficult times. “If people around the world are tightening their belts, then it’s going to affect us in terms of financial donations,” said Tiny. “Funders, such as organisations and companies, are saying they cannot afford to give as much as they used to.” 
The shelter provides a lifeline for children who would otherwise face abandonment and neglect, often living on the streets. The children are given accommodation, access to education and food; some stay in care until they are grown and independent, through tertiary education, until they gain employment.
Stephanie Burnet CEO and Co-founder of Jabulani Khakibos Kids said in an interview that some funders who were helping them before have said they could not help anymore. This, along with a cut in their school grant from the Department of Social Welfare means it is very tight with no money for food in the budget.
Burnet is thankful that many generous people have stepped in to help, despite their own financial difficulties. “Somebody is helping us now with fruits and vegetables,” she says, “and now we praying asking the lord to help us find someone who gives us meat, which will be fabulous.”
According to Director Narisha Govender of The Johannesburg Children’s Home, the economic crisis hugely affects their operations. Though they receive subsidies from the  Department of Social Welfare, as well as some corporate donors, they have noticed a decline in terms of donations received for the home.
Govender states that though everyone is suffering from the economic changes, it is particularly difficult for charities and non-governmental organisations. This has meant changes in the way they operate. Though they struggle with the financial and food crisis, this has not stopped such organisations from welcoming more women and children. Rather, they are being a bit more creative about how they use what they have.
“We have been educating our staff in terms of the recession and how we have to learn to cut back,” explains Govender. “We can’t afford to waste, so we have been trying to cut back on things. We have introduced new menus in the kitchen, especially with food. We have also introduced quite a bit of traditional meals with the kids.”
For Gugu Mofoteng, a survivor of domestic violence and volunteer at People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), her dream of opening a shelter for abused women has been shattered by the current crisis. “I cannot open a shelter for abused women as I had planned to do because of financial problem and food prices have gone too high, laments Mofoteng.
Although most of us are finding the financial crisis quite hard, there are still many others spending lots of money and still able to afford such luxuries as eating in expensive places. Perhaps everyone needs to care about what things cost. Prices vary on different products, and maybe be comparing prices before buying, those who can save a little bit, and pass along to people who are struggling, especially the shelters and homes that house so many people.
Cindy Dzanya is a project assistant with CMFD Productions in Johannesburg. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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