Hunters came out in droves as soon as interprovincial travel was permitted under lockdown Level 2 regulations, to help feed disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa.
Thanks to the #HelpJag (#HelpHunt) initiative, thousands children still receive a healthy plate of food, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The initiative relies on financial and game donations. When hunters opt to donate a buck, a hunt is arranged by HelpJag. After the hunt takes place, the hunter transports the meat to one of HelpJag's network of slaughterhouses in the area, where the meat is processed and packed. The meat is then distributed to schools, old age homes and homes for those with special needs.
Those that wish to donate need only contribute R35 per kilogram of venison.
Since 2018, 68.6 tons of venison has been donated. This year alone until the end of August, with the help of 126 hunters, 26.6 tons of meat was collected.
Due to lockdown regulations, the hunting season in South Africa, which typically ends in August, was disrupted, as hunters were not able to travel.
Solidarity's Helping Hands programme got creative to work around travel restrictions, instead opting to ask game farmers to hunt on their farms, and bought meat directly from them, explained media liaison officer Phillip Bruwer.
He said that the four main provinces the initiative supported during the pandemic was Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the North West, but have sent meat to the Eastern and Western Cape as well.
Game typically hunted includes kudu, blesbok, eland, blue wildebeest, gemsbok, waterbuck and springbuck.
One eland feeds up to 83 small children, and a kudu up to 40.
Curbing hunger among children is one of Helping Hands' priorities, with more than 8,000 young children dependant on the #StopHunger project.
Before Covid-19, statistics provided by Helping Hands showed that 24% of children do not get meals at night, 35% of children go to school hungry, and more than 40% of pre-primary schools cannot afford to provide more than one meal a day.
This results in young children losing up to 8% of their body weight if they are not relying on the feeding scheme.
Helping Hands had to ensure that it provided the same amount of support to the children dependant on them for food as it did before lockdown.
Brouwer explained that the pandemic did present some problems, namely that Helping Hands' feeding schemes usually take place at schools, where food distribution can be regulated. Sending meat to each child's home presented the opportunity for meat to be sold for money, which mitigates efforts to keep children from starving.
Food could also not be delivered to a household for just one child, which resulted in the need for food increasing threefold during the height of the pandemic, Bruwer said.
"We believe a child cannot be educated on an empty stomach," he empathised.
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