• November 15th, 2018
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Foodbank: Observations and recommendations

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Jacob Hamutenya Namibia has a food bank that was launched less than two years ago. It is at a very infant stage as it currently only operates intermittently on a pilot basis for Khomas Region. The following observations are based on the observations made in the United States at the Central Texas Foodbank in Austin City, South Plain Foodbank, and the South Plains Foodbank GRUB Farm during a Mandela Washington Fellowship attended by this author between June 16 to August 3 last year. Upon various site visits to the three food banks in Texas, various inputs were sought to help add value to the Namibia food bank model. There is a need to allocate production land which will be used to grow crops and produce exclusively for the food bank. This is critical to ensure sustained supply of commodities to the bank consistently, stimulate production, and ensure sustainability. The ministry of agriculture should request AgriBusDev, the agency in charge of all government irrigation projects in the country, to allocate land on strategic farms in various regions. This can be assigned in such a manner that Etunda serves the north-central areas of the country – Sikondo, Shadikongolo and Musese projects serve north-east areas, Kalimbeza serves eastern areas, ORIP serves //Kharas area, while Naute Dam irrigation project can serve the southern parts of the country. We need to first establish the list of beneficiaries so that the bank can formulate and assemble the appropriate donation packages, including fresh produce. Based on the composition of the package, the specific demand for various produce will be determined. Once the product need is quantified, it can then be structured into a production programme. The cropping programme will guide the farm to plant the correct quantity and the appropriate intervals. The farm will be operated on a normal basis like any other farm to ensure operational sustainability and quality of produce. This will increase local production, a healthy diet for recipients and contribute to import substitution, which ultimately will promote food security in the country. Interested institutions and individuals keen to support the initiative can channel their support into the food bank system by either providing technical support, production inputs, labour, or other resources. Furthermore, schools, prisons and vocational training centres need to be requested to align their internship and community work programmes to provide labour, in order to provide students with a platform to apply learned skills, and develop a social responsibility mindset. Instead of just collecting dry food, the bank should consider also collecting non-food items such as cutlery, clothing, stationery and groceries from businesses and individuals. The bank should focus more on staple needs rather than wants such as pet food, paper goods, hygiene items. The bank must consider coming up with fixed supply contracts and an agreement between it and the businesses donors to ensure consistent supply. This will also help businesses, especially food retailers, to have a consistent system in place to dispose of their products. Having a reliable donating regime in place will also help them to obtain tax breaks and related central government incentives. Specifically, identify how donations can be used as a tax write-off. Then, a simple MoU could be entered to form some sort of common ground to ensure a sustained joint partnership. The corporate donors will have national agreements with the central food bank and the other food banks in the regions. My observation is that food banks in the U.S. thrive because they focus on supply chain management and make the donation process as easy as possible for donors. Therefore, investing in trucks and drivers allows for frequent donor visits, which will increase donations. As opposed to the current set-up with only one area for purchasing and issuing out the purchased items, it will be a good idea to separate the facility into compartments – one for handling donated assorted products, and another for the purchased items. Yes, donated items will likely need a quality assessment and re-categorisation process as opposed to purchased items from manufacturers. The sorting process can be a very good pitch to solicit volunteers. As opposed to only giving uncooked food items, it will be a good idea to come up with an integrated feeding kitchen for starving people in the area where they could come have meals at defined intervals. This can be harmonised with school feeding programmes in the area to be covered for pupils. In order to cut the dependency syndrome and to turn the beneficiaries into productive citizens, the centre must come up with a unit that will be carrying out social service needs analysis on beneficiaries, advisory services, and facilitate basic capacity development such as organising soft skills training, etc. Additionally, food banks must also pitch social service resources to their network of partnering pantries. In the U.S. they particularly incentivise their banks to ensure they too are holistically helping their clients. The Namibian food bank must partner with agricultural institutions such as the University of Namibia (through their agriculture science departments) to offer dedicated technical support to the production unit. This will ensure quality of operations, reduce operation costs and enhance inclusivity essence of the programme. In order to enhance the effectiveness of the programme, the bank should consider introducing a ‘food on the wheels’ strategy whereby food parcels are dropped off at the residences of the beneficiaries who are unable to reach the central collection point, particularly in urban areas. Partnering with other feeding organisations can assist in this concern. If you can better provide them with product they could focus on combating food security. In order for the project not to rely solely on government funding, it needs to introduce alternative methods of raising funds through the goodwill of the community and social responsible institutions. Food drives are great but if you have purchasing powers you can actually gather more products through financial donations. However, this makes donors more sceptical of where the funds are going. Allow donors the opportunity to purchase a truckload of food from a manufacturer to alleviate scepticism. Another method to raise funds for the project is for the project to sell ‘shares’ whereby interested community members and institutions contribute money to the project and get fresh produce in return. It doesn’t only help mobilise production resources but also promotes community involvement and creates a sense of ownership in the project. There are opportunities to work with farmers that have ‘second grades’, or undesirable produce, that can’t be sold to their retailers, so, agreements to donate these excess crops could feed hungry clients. In order to ensure sustainability, it is envisaged that the local food bank approaches strategic institutions, businesses, individuals (philanthropists) to commit contributions on a monthly basis or any other regular interval. This will ensure the project has a consistent and predictable income on which to align its operational expenditures. • Jacob Hamutenya is the regional manager for AMTA’s Ongwediva fresh produce hub.
New Era Reporter
2018-05-24 09:46:13 5 months ago

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