There are many, many NGOs, crèches and outreach programmes throughout the Cape Winelands that are each doing amazing work and collectively contributing to the general upliftment and care of the community. However, one such organisation went a little further, extending their services and expertise to other NGOs and so freeing them up to do what they do best.

The organisation is called Shiloh Synergy and it was started over a decade ago by the churches of the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town who combined their efforts to reach out to communities in need. They realised that all their outreach programmes into the schools were not making much of an impact because when the children arrived at school in Grade 1, they were not ‘school ready.’

So instead the organisation focussed on establishing pre-schools in various under-resourced areas. They trained teachers from the community, equipped them with an appropriate, comprehensive curriculum and built bright, sunny classrooms and secure playgrounds where children could be nurtured, educated and stimulated.

They also were determined to provide these children with healthy meals but soon realised it was much more cost effective to cook these at a central kitchen and then distribute to the various crèches. This eventually turned into a separate branch of the organisation, aptly called Shiloh Food that currently supplies nourishing cooked meals not only to their own crèches, but to many other pre-schools, night shelters, old age homes, food kitchens and clinics across the region.

“Now these institutions can focus on their core mandate, like healthcare or education, and trust us to supply a hot meal at lunchtime every day,” explains Low Bothma, formerly a Logistics Manager for a national milling company but now retired and doing his bit for the community. “Some days I work harder than I’ve ever worked before,” he says with a wry smile.

The meals have been designed by a dietician to make sure they are nutritious. They are cooked fresh and in bulk every day and are either distributed hot on the day to locations nearby; or frozen and distributed further afield if necessary. Economy of scale enables Shiloh Food to supply over 300 000 safe, nutritious and affordable meals per year.

Shiloh Food also distributes food hampers to families in need such as those in the drought-stricken areas of the Winelands where seasonal work has been scarce over the past few years.

Funding comes purely from donations, either from large corporate sponsors or from individuals. “Farmers often supply us with vegetables, or we get food that is in over-supply from retailers or manufacturers,” explains Low. “Then we have to work quickly and creatively to keep the perishable food safe and add it into our existing meal plan.

Their catch phrase is: “What we do in life echoes in eternity” and a quick visit to a crèche filled with round, happy faces and full tummies is evidence that the ripple effect of these children as they grow up and into society is far-reaching and profound.

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- Julia Moore