By Zinzi Mgolodela, Woolworths Director of Corporate Affairs

World Food Day, commemorated on October 16, is a reminder to all of us that creating a food secure world is incredibly complex, with serious impacts on the state of human health and the planet. The campaign, which envisages a #zerohunger world by 2030, highlights the importance of access to a healthy diet.

This year, our Woolies employees celebrated World Food Day by volunteering in the food gardens at EduPlant schools across the country to help make fresh vegetables and fruit more accessible in their school nutrition programmes and communities.

Among the various food security initiatives we are involved in, Woolworths has been supporting the EduPlant programme for the past 15 years. Initiated and managed by Food & Trees for Africa, EduPlant has facilitated more than 770 permaculture food gardening workshops, reaching over 61,000 educators at thousands of schools. This year 86% of the schools participating in the programme have started food gardens. The involvement of Woolies employees in these school gardens demonstrate a much need collaboration and partnerships in addressing food insecurity.

We are very proud and humbled by the EduPlant programme as it is making a meaningful difference to South Africa’s food insecurity challenges and changing lives. One such life is 22 year old Mashao Seabela @mashao seabela . I recall Mashao as a confident 10 year old who presented his rural Limpopo primary school’s food garden to a panel of judges at the EduPlant competition 12 years ago.

I knew that this young boy was going to go places, so it was a great pleasure to reconnect with Mashao, who is now living in Cape Town and is an environmental scientist and social media influencer.

Mashao says the EduPlant programme moulded him into the man he is today and made a huge impact on his career choice.

With good food at the heart of the Woolworths business, we are committed to a #zerohunger future. Over the past 16 years, we have made contributions to the value of R5.8 billion through our surplus food donations, partnership of the EduPlant food gardening programme and other food security programmes.

But this commitment also extends to being open to partnerships that deliver shared value and we see this worldwide challenge as a non competitive issue among food retailers and producers. We believe everyone in the food value chain has a responsibility and we take this very seriously.

With this challenge at hand, shared value has to be a real experience, not an empty cliche, especially in South Africa where sustainable impacts need to be derived from everyone who is contributing meaningfully to making a shift, including corporate citizens like us at Woolies.

It also means looking across our business to find unique and creative opportunities to promote food security and to rally everyone in our reach around this cause. This past week we also launched the first of our special “Food Security Tree” windows, which will be the festive season feature in our 10 flagship stores.

The innovative Christmas trees hold seed pods with actual tree seeds. The pods were handmade by local crafters through a job creation initiative and developed with a seed specialist to give them the best possible chance of growing into healthy trees. At the end of the festive season, 20,000 tree seeds will be donated to EduPlant schools for planting in their food gardens.

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