“Recent statistics have shown that one in five children in the Northern Cape go to bed hungry every night,” said Pastor Maré Venter of CRC Upington which partnered with JAM earlier this year.
In fact, malnutrition is the second leading cause of death in children in the province, according to Statistics South Africa.
“The Northern Cape also has the highest incidence of children with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome,” said Pastor Jacques Venter who started working with vulnerable children 11 years ago.
The church started an outreach programme, providing children with soup and bread every Friday but soon realised that this was not enough to make a real impact.
“It was not going to stop malnutrition, it was just hunger relief one day a week,” he said.
He came across a video about JAM where co-founder Ann Pretorius said that the work of the organisation was not “a hand out, but a hand up” and this really struck him – JAM’s mission is to “Help Africa Help Itself”.
“I realised that we needed sustainable development and JAM was the perfect partner to help us achieve this,” he said.
Ps Jacques organised bags of JAM porridge through CRC Kimberley and has started feeding in two crèches in impoverished settlements just outside Upington.
“At the moment we are feeding 60 children a day. Our target is to be feeding 700 children a day by the end of the year,” Ps Jacques said.
Ps Maré Venter said that many South Africans believe malnutrition happens up north in other African countries and are not aware that is right on their doorstep.
Malnutrition presents itself in a number of ways, most prevalent in South Africa are wasting, stunting and obesity.
“Studies have shown that 26% of children under the age of nine in South Africa are stunted. This means they do not have enough nutrition for proper brain or physical development. They are not able to play, learn or reach their full potential. Invariably these children will be an anchor on society and the South African economy,” said David Brown, MD at JAM South Africa.
“We need to get to these children urgently if we are to solve our country’s problems. JAM believes that a proper education begins with the right nutrition. This is our point of entry into poor communities and once that is in place, our other programmes support school infrastructure development, teacher training and agriculture.”