Yesterday I took pictures at the Melville food parcel program again.

I arrived at the church a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., just after the sun rose. I was nearly too late because the bulk of the 365 parcels had already been distributed by the time I got there, and the line outside had completely dissipated.

Sunrise outside Heritage Baptist Church
Sunrise outside the Heritage Baptist Church, where the food parcel distribution takes place.

People are arriving to pick up their parcels earlier and earlier — some recipients were lined up before 5:00 a.m. — which is interesting because the parcels are distributed on a ticket system and if you already have your claim ticket, there is theoretically no rush to be in the front of the line as you’re guaranteed to get a parcel.

I suppose people just want to make absolutely certain they can feed their families for the week.

I hung around for an hour or two, talking to the volunteers and taking photos as the last few people trickled in.

Food recipients in church
Everyone gets their temperature taken before they enter the church.
A volunteer takes a photo of each person with their claim ticket before they leave with the food parcel, just to keep track of the numbers.
Bonile Bam photographing people at the food program
Photojournalist Bonile Bam, who also lives in Melville, has been documenting the food distribution for the past two weeks. This week he was shooting analog portraits of many of the parcel recipients. I can’t wait to see what comes of his project.

Tanya Gardiner, who organizes the food distribution, fell and broke her wrist on Wednesday but she was still there at 5:00 a.m. yesterday. I am blown away by how organized this operation has become and how the volunteers are able to feed more and more people every week (with the help of Jumbo Farmers).

Tanya mentioned to me that the they currently have enough funds to continue the distribution for this week and next week, but after that she’s not certain. It’s weird — after three weeks of watching all this happen, I totally forgot the operation won’t be able to continue indefinitely unless donors keep supporting it.

This is actually quite terrifying because I can see how the food parcel recipients are depending on this program now. Even behind masks, it’s impossible to miss the joy and relief on people’s faces as they walk out of the church with their food.

I know many of you have already donated: Thank you. For anyone who might be considering donating (or donating again): Each of these food parcels costs R130 (about $7.50) and feeds a family of four for a week. So 365 food parcels costs about R47,000, and provides a total of 20,000 individual meals in one week. The program is open to anyone, no questions asked.

To donate via EFT, use the bank details below and write “Melville” in the reference field:

Name: Viva Foundation
Branch: FNB Olympus Plaza Code 258155
Acc Nr.: 622 4884 3270
Reference: Melville
SWIFT: FIRNZAJJZXXX

To donate from overseas, please contact me. I’ll let you know how to send the money to me through Paypal and I’ll transfer it directly over the Viva Foundation, which transfers the money directly over to Tanya.

Have a great weekend.

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