• Ralph Thurman

How Food Forward Is Working to Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity in South Africa

Food insecurity is a serious issue throughout South Africa. An estimated 23.6 percent of South Africans were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2020, while 14.9 percent struggled with severe food insecurity. This lack of access to nutritious food has many causes, including poverty, an increasing population, conflict and instability, climate change, and more recently, COVID-19. Organizations like Food Forward South Africa are working tirelessly to address this problem.

According to Food Forward’s data, approximately one-third of all food produced in South Africa ends up in landfills, yet approximately 14 million of the country’s people go hungry each day. Established in 2009, Food Forward recovers edible surplus food from the supply chain and redistributes it to those in need.

What Food Forward Does

Food Forward South Africa sources and collects excess food from manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, farmers, and growers throughout the country. This food is then sorted and stored at various warehouses across South Africa before being redistributed to registered Food Forward beneficiary organizations (BOs) across the country.

Each day, Food Forward serves approximately 700,000 South Africans. The partner organizations provide at least four meals per week to people struggling with food insecurity. Approximately 80 percent of the food recovered is considered nutritious.

The organization also helps its BOs form direct connections with retail stores and food outlets. The BOs then use FoodShare, Food Forward’s digital platform, to regularly collect surplus food. This platform is an efficient and cost-effective way to gather and distribute surplus food to the hungry and reduce food waste.

Food Forward Initiatives

Food Forward has several ongoing initiatives that help reduce the issue of food insecurity in South Africa:

  • Large-Scale Feeding Programs - Food Forward partners with several corporate entities to provide nutritious breakfasts to over 50,000 South African children in preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools.


  • Mobile Rural Depots - The Mobile Rural Depot model is designed to improve food access for rural communities, which are among the most vulnerable to food insecurity. Food Forward selects rural communities from across the nation and provides them with monthly food provisions through beneficiary organizations.

  • Supply Chain Youth Internships - Youth unemployment is a major problem in South Africa and one of the barriers to food access. This program aims to reduce youth unemployment by providing young people with skills and experience working in the supply chain through a six-month SETA-accredited Supply Chain Youth Internship. At the end of the program, Food Forward helps participants find work with one of the organization’s supply chain partners.


  • Warehouse Foodbanking - Food Forward collects and stores edible excess food in its warehouses across the country. The food is then redistributed to registered BOs.

  • Second Harvest - This outreach program allows local farmers to donate their post-harvest surplus produce to aid in the struggle against hunger. Second Harvest has made major improvements in the nutritional value of the food recovered by Food Forward. When large quantities are donated, the organization partners with manufacturers to produce shelf-stable foods like jams and sauces.

  • FoodShare and Virtual Foodbanking - FoodShare makes it easy for BOs to regularly collect and report surplus food. This program has been especially useful during the pandemic.


Measuring the Impact of Food Forward South Africa

Food insecurity has been on the rise on a global scale since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021-22 financial year, Food Forward helped make a major impact on the growing issue of food insecurity in South Africa. The organization distributed 48 million meals and reached 875,725 people each day through its network of 2,225 BOs across the country. This was all achieved with an average meal cost of just R0.68, or about USD .04. In total, the organization rescued and redistributed about 12,000 tons of surplus food that otherwise may have ended up in landfills.

Food Forward plans to expand and hopes to have an even bigger impact in the new financial year. The organization has set a goal to distribute enough food to make 70 million meals. In addition, its network has expanded to 2,750 BOs. Organization leaders plan to increase the reach of the Mobile Rural Depots and help more rural South Africans become more food secure.

How Can You Help Food Forward South Africa?

Those who are looking to make a difference by helping Food Forward address food insecurity in South Africa can do so through a few different channels:

  • Volunteer

  • Donate to the Fill the Gap campaign, which allows you to provide two daily meals per month to a South African in need

  • Host your own food drive


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