Walking alongside young South Africa

Tiger Brands Foundation Director Eugene Absolom says that if South Africa is to maximise

the benefits of her large and sustained investment in education, then well thought-through PPPs are needed. The benefits of school nutrition programmes are demonstrable and profound.

The Tiger Brands Foundation’s work across the country is more than the provision of in-school start-of-the-day meals, critical though that is. It is a holistic programme of nutritional strengthening of our young citizens that paves the way for partnerships that can expand its reach to them all.

Working in selected no-fee schools across South Africa, this endeavour brings with it associated educational programmes, assists in job creation, invests in strengthened management capacity in nutritional rollouts, and does much more. Working with the Department of Basic Education and through private partnerships, it goes “beyond the meal”, with positive results that are measurable and profound.

This begins with the Foundation’s long-term Theory of Change, detailed in our annual report, and rests on an underlying “golden circle of actions” that aim for positive transformation in the lives of young people through direct interventions, on-the-ground, “at eye-level”.

These play out practically in the in-school nutrition programme that this year saw the Foundation serve its 60 millionth meal since 2011. It sees infrastructure support in the installation of industrial-standard kitchens in some schools and the systematic upgrading of facilities at others, in the distribution of food hampers to support families during school holidays, in the sponsoring of winning schools of the annual National School Nutrition Programme of the Department of Basic Education, in local capacity-building of various sorts for excellence in nutritional programme success, through robust monitoring and evaluation of our work, and in the Foundation’s thought leadership through commissioning research and sharing learnings, so that others may fruitfully join this effort.

Indeed, this last is critical if South Africa is to maximise the benefits of her large and sustained investment in the improvement of access to schooling, and so in the results of that educational endeavour. That will require the National School Nutrition Programme’s feeding of 9 million learners to be complemented by these learners receiving on-site meals to start their schooling days too, the benefits of which are both obvious and demonstrable.

It requires public-private partnerships across the full gamut of schooling, led by educational authorities, and benefitting from this Foundation’s shared knowledge. There can be few things in social investment that offer better societal returns.

Thus, independent studies commissioned by the Foundation show that our programme delivers a social-return-on-investment of an average R9 social return for every R1 invested.

The programme works to interim goals that make up our Enhancing Impact 2022 strategy.

First off is the requirement for its financial sustainability. As a vehicle for Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, the Foundation, an independent entity, receives income from dividends accruing from shares held in Tiger Brands Limited. By nature, dividend payments fluctuate due to various factors.

I am pleased to report that the Foundation has not been seriously affected by related matters, and that our operations are unaffected. We maintain a positive balance sheet, financially-viable reserves, continue to diversify our income streams, and we take seriously the professional management of our risk coverage.

So it is that we have been able to increase our reach to providing in-school meals to 92 schools across every province, with an average 63 500 learners benefitting each school day.

Direct impact is reinforced with proactive efficiency and capacity interventions at local level by our dedicated staff members who are sited across our operations, working closely with state, school, and private sector partners.

Apart from Tiger Brands Limited; the Ministry and the Department of Basic Education at different levels, and the National School Nutrition Programme; the Foundation’s current principle partners include Gouda Wind Energy Facility, Nungu Marketing and Distribution, Sishen Solar Facility, and the Southern Lodestar Foundation.

With targeted advocacy backed by in-depth independent research and well-worked through lessons learned in our own work, the Foundation will increase its strategic partnerships to secure additional long-term, flexible corporate partnerships that further expand the positive impact of our programme.

For this is always a work of many hands. It includes food handlers and monitors; provincial coordinators; provincial education authorities, school governing bodies, principals and supervising teachers; distributors of supply; builders; trainers of nutritional education, hygiene and associated work; associated social investors; and more besides.

That is why the Foundation takes care to invest in its own capacity-building and skills retention, and it is why we extend this to bespoke training of implementing staff and volunteers across the country. It is a prime reason for our hosting of the immensely useful and productive biennial gathering of principals who are involved in the programme.

This three-day conference held in Gauteng in April 2017 worked off the premise that “A hungry child cannot learn – healthy children change the world”, a pithy summary of our raison d’etre. Principals, educational authorities and Foundation staff worked with world-class developmental experts in a sharing of what works best, and what less so, in this work. We identified and explored best practices that can be replicated across our sites of service, to bring greatest benefit to our shared goal of advancing quality education, improved health in our communities, and increased social justice.

Walking alongside young South Africans is the honour of us all, and I commend it to you.

It is work that the Foundation is able to undertake with assurance, thanks to the involved oversight and guidance of our Chairperson and Trustees, our public and private sector partners who walk alongside us, and because of our in-house team of professional operational staff whose dedication to excellence and high impact results always inspires.

Such partners and colleagues are exemplars of our country’s best spirit, and the Tiger Brands Foundation is sincerely grateful to each one.

  • Eugene Absolom, Director of the Tiger Brands Foundation.

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