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Just SA supports Pensioners Feeding Scheme to provide fresh meals to SA’s elderly

Charity fills pensioner’s stomachs as they queue for monthly income grants

For 74-year-old Theresa Ngcongo from Orlando East, the start of the month requires an extra-early wake-up to make the journey to the nearest post office. It’s here that the grandmother of 6 will stand in line from as early as 5am to receive her monthly government stipend of R1,890 – an amount that supports an entire household of 4 with food, groceries, and essential expenses.

By the time a new month rolls around, there is often no money or food left at home, which means Theresa will wait on an empty stomach for the ‘money trucks’ to arrive, unable to take her chronic medication until she has sufficient funds to get some breakfast. But on some days, it could take several hours due to delays, and it is not uncommon for a pensioner to collapse while they wait.

“Unfortunately, Theresa’s’s situation is not unique,” says Lerato Thusi, an underwriter at retirement income specialist Just SA and founder of newly registered non-profit organisation Pensioners Feeding Group, based in Soweto.

South Africa’s Social Security Agency hands out older persons grants to around 46%[1] of the population every month, and many of these people from SA’s poorest communities rely on this small monthly income to keep their families afloat.

Having identified a need within her own Soweto community, and eager to positively change a pensioner’s experience when collecting their grant, in September 2021 Thusi founded the Pensioners Feeding Group with a few of her friends.

“Our grannies and grandpas are the backbones of our communities - the ones who never stop loving and providing for their families,” says Thusi. “The Pensioners Feeding Group exists so that we can give back to those who have given so selflessly to us. By providing them with a meal while they wait in long queues to get their monthly grant, we are giving back to them one meal at a time.”

The friends initially used their WhatsApp connections to raise funds for ingredients and kick-started their feeding scheme by serving the queues at post offices in their local communities of Orlando East and Meadowlands. Working out of Thusi’s home kitchen, in their first month of operations they were able to hand out 430 meals to pensioners.

In November, Thusi’s employer, Just SA, provided some sponsorship to help increase their reach. Another four service areas in Soweto were added, but with this new responsibility it was also necessary to recruit more volunteers to satisfy the higher demand. In April, the group prepared just under 1,700 meals – including both breakfast and lunch.

“Thanks to the additional support from Just SA, we have been able to reach more people in need and are starting to make a tangible difference to the lives of many pensioners in Soweto,” says Thusi.

Just SA CEO Deane Moore says: “We admire the initiative shown by Lerato, who let het heart be moved by a need in her community and has acted on that. We are proud to draw alongside her and provide part of the PFG’s financial needs; and we hope they will attract other donations and helpers, as they seek to serve a growing number of pensioners in this very practical way.”

The Pensioners Feeding Group relies wholly on donations to fund its operations; if you are interested in learning more or are able to make a food donation, please contact pensionersfeedingroup@gmail.com.

If you would like to make a financial donation online, please click here to visit the charity’s official Given Gain page.

[1] https://www.skillsportal.co.za/content/heres-how-long-does-sassa-older-persons-grant-application-takes

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