Lack of funds forces Philippi vegetable soup kitchen to cut down on meals

Food for Life South Africa distributes plant-based meals over weekends across the Cape Flats and parts of the Western Cape

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

14 April 2023

Rickey Muller is a volunteer at the Food for Life South Africa’s Western Cape branch. The organisation prepares large pots of plant-based meals for dozens of soup kitchens across the Cape Flats and parts of the Western Cape. Photos: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Nilesh Luckhoo, treasurer and cook at Food for Life SA, starts his day at 5:30am to prepare to cook large pots of plant-based meals to be distributed to dozens of community soup kitchens across the Cape Flats and parts of the Western Cape.

GroundUp visited Food for Life’s shipping container in Schaapkraal, Philippi on a cold, cloudy Saturday morning. Dozens of 20-litre plastic buckets were lined up outside the container, ready to be filled with the meal of the day. That day it was rice, carrots, potatoes, baby marrows, cabbage, and soya (mince) for protein. The buckets are taken to soup kitchens in several communities.

Started in 2013, Food for Life SA Western Cape distributes meals every weekend to 12 non-profit organisations and community soup kitchens who feed thousands of people. Countrywide, Food for Life has 24 branches.

Luckhoo says the organisation was started in India, when founder Srila Prabhupada saw children fighting with dogs for scraps of food. “Now we have branches all over the world.”

Luckhoo says the organisation in the Western Cape has had to scale down because of shortage of funds. They used to feed 4,000 people but now only feed 2,000. “Hopefully once donations and funding pick up, we will be able to go back to our original number of over 4,000,” says Luckhoo.

Food for Life SA operates from this container in Schaapkraal, Philippi, Cape Town.

Sachin Dajee, who has been volunteering since 2020, said money was a struggle, though the organisation had survived the Covid years. “We ask for a debit order of R20 to R50. We are constantly looking for various avenues of income. It is a struggle.

“The last fundraiser was in September 2021 where we cooked 25,000 meals for almost 150 communities. Last year in April we cooked our one millionth meal,” says Dajee. “There are too many people in need,” he says.

Merissa Meyer from Conquering Through Faith Ministries has collected from Food for Life for two years. Over the Easter weekend, her organisation fed adults and children living on the street. “Our goal was to give out 200 meals.” Meyer said the communities they work in include Pelican Park, Lotus River, Grassy Park and Plumstead.