Ali Conn, 33, of Oranjezicht, was named one of Africa’s 100 brightest young minds, an award programme sponsored by the United Nations World Food Programme that recognizes and honours young people making a difference in their fields and communities.
Mr Conn, the Chief Innovation Officer for SA Harvest, which does food rescue and systemic intervention, claims that one-third of all food produced is wasted, with a monetary value exceeding R67 billion.
“We have food insecurity in this country and we decided to rescue the food, to stop throwing it away so we can feed people. With this rescue we are also reducing the amount of methane that is being released by food waste in landfills, it’s really bad for the environment,” said Mr Conn.
He goes on to say that food insecurity is a root cause of many of the country’s social problems.
“Hunger is not just going hungry for a night or day. It stunts growth in children, they cannot learn if they are not being fed and later on in life it contributes to violence. So if we can solve food insecurity, we will solve so many of our problems and not just hunger,” he said.
With SA Harvest distributing nearly two million meals a month, Mr Conn believes they must develop a system that allows people to become self-sufficient.
“Charity is important to the South African ecosystem where the government falls short in so many areas so we have to rely on charity and the generosity of others. But there comes a point where charity leads to dependence and we don’t want to create a system where people rely on handouts,” he said.
Mr Conn says they collect mostly perishable foods from farms and then distribute it to their beneficiaries such as soup kitchens and other feeding schemes.
“Most of these soup kitchens don’t have the means to collect these perishable foods and that’s where we come in. They reach out to us and we do a process to check what they do and how they do it, how many people they feed and this is done online. We also send our personnel to check what they do, if the place is safe, to check that they are not selling the food, so we make sure that they are legit.”
SA Harvest supplies foods to over 300 beneficiaries in the Western Cape.
Liezl Smit, the social manager and programme manager at The Homestead in Woodstock said: “They give us weekly food donations which helps us a lot so we don’t have to go out of our way to do fundraising and we don’t have to dig into our budget as well. They give us fresh fruits and veggies that our kids really need, it’s good nutrition for them so we are so happy with this donation.”
Liezl Smit, the social manager and programme manager at The Homestead in Woodstock said: “We have 35 people in our house but it varies how many people we can feed. The fruit and veggies really go a long way and we are grateful to SA Harvest for their contribution, they really come through for us. We get different vegetables from them but we get onions and potatoes which we need to make pot of food and dealing with them is a joy.”