We are preparing to head back to the States after a productive three-month season here in South Africa. This month I would like to focus on our child feeding program. We first started feeding children 13 years ago with a generous grant from one our ministry partners. The grant was $250,000, and it made it possible for us to feed 300 children for 2 years. I remember thinking at the time that it was amazing that we were able to do this.
When you start feeding children it is important that you have a plan how to continue doing that long term. Quite honestly, in the early days I wasn’t sure how we would be able to do that. It was a matter of praying and trusting God to continue to provide. The second year into our feeding program we constructed our Del Cramer Children’s Campus (DCCC) with the primary purpose of making it a feeding center.
About this same time, we began our long-term partnership with Meals from the Heartland (MFTH), and I was able to connect MFTH with Convoy of Hope (COH). These two wonderful organizations pledged to send 4 shipping containers of food to us each year to expand our feeding program. When we opened DCCC we limited it to feeding just 25 vulnerable children Monday through Friday. We wanted to be sure that we were offering a full high-quality child development program and not just a feeding center. We began assisting the children with their studies, sports and spiritual development.
A dozen years later DCCC is our main pilot feeding hub and serves 200 to 225 children every week. There are now approximately 175 smaller feeding centers located in preschools and churches that come to DCCC every three months to pick up the MFTH food packets. With this network in the Mokopane area we are able to feed over 10,000 children weekly.
Over the years MFTH and COH continue to bless us with all of the food that we request, and we began opening up additional hubs across South Africa. Our second hub was opened in Durban with Focus on the Family 10 years ago. Gary and Barb Rosberg were instrumental in connecting us with Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family established a network of smaller feeding hubs and churches similar to what we did at DCCC, and they have been able to feed a several thousand children every week using the MFTH food packets. Our hub in Cape Town with the Western Baptist Union is serving over 10,000 children. The poverty in South Africa has continued to get worse over the 20 years that we have been serving here.
The unemployment rate nationwide is approximately 30% or about 6 million unemployed people. In the rural areas where we are serving the unemployment rate is more than twice that number. Each year we are finding more and more malnourished and stunted children who urgently need food assistance. During the Covid pandemic the country completely shut down making the problems so much worse. One good thing to come out of Covid was that we all learned how to communicate virtually using Zoom.
The need country wide was so great that we began opening new hubs throughout Southern Africa. We now have hubs in Swaziland and Lesotho and 10 hubs throughout South Africa for a total of 12 hubs. Each hub sets up its own network of surrounding feeding centers that come and fetch food packets from the hub. With these 12 hubs we are now able to serve 60,000 children each week with a meal 3 to 5 times per week. We communicate with the hubs on Zoom meetings every two weeks and encourage each of them to start food gardens to supplement the food that we are able to donate to them. We also collect data from them about the children that they are assisting. In addition, we encourage each hub to be offering a full child development program and not simply handing out food packets.
This year with the wonderful assistance of MFTH and COH we will be importing 21 containers of food packets which equates to 6 million meals, and that will be a major source of the food for these 60,000 children. During the pandemic we began a new program, Feeding African Children with African Food in partnership with Northern Food Products located in Polokwane, Limpopo, South Africa. The hubs are encouraged to raise funding the first year for 10% of the cost of the food that we purchase for them here in South Africa. We sign contracts with the hubs with the goal that during year 2 they will each provide 15% of the cost of the food. In the following years (3 years and beyond) they will fund 20% of the cost of the food. The Africans that we work with are proud people, and even though they are impoverished they are more than capable of contributing a portion of the funds needed to expand their own feeding programs. I am trusting God that with this new approach funding will be available to us, and one day soon we will be capable of assisting 100,000 vulnerable children with their nutritional needs.
Please pray with me that we are able to do our part to help care for these beautiful children.