A special holiday meal being served in a Wonderbag slow cooker.

It’s been more than 2 years since the initial hard lockdowns of COVID when many people in our communities were instantly left with no income. Solving the problem of growing hunger became an extremely urgent task, while at the same time meeting the challenges of COVID.

In collaboration with the community leaders of Masiphumelele, Living Hope launched 23 community kitchens to cook and serve food to the needy and those who were ill. Thus began our “Cooking Mamas” programme! These ladies (and a few gentlemen!) were identified from their own community as those who were already investing their own time and money to help their neighbours with extra food when they could. Confronted daily with the desperate hunger of their communities, these cooks already had a reputation for compassion and service. Throughout the last two years, Living Hope has been able to offer ongoing mentorship, training and supplies to the cooks. To our amazement, because of the commitment of these Cooking Mamas and because of faithful partnerships, we currently have 42 kitchens running! These 42 kitchens are serving an average of 100 meals per kitchen per week. In other words, that’s 4200 meals per week being served across our Peninsula to people who really need a hot meal and are benefitting greatly from this service. This is truly a “loaves and fishes” miracle! Keep reading to learn more about these incredible women and this programme.

Healthy, homemade and hot! Looks tasty right?

Shopping trips for ingredients!

    Starch staples (rice, samp, flour, maize meal, pasta)
    Vegetable staples (potatoes, onions, carrots)
    Vegetables seasonal or as donated (cabbage, beetroot, butternut, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, gem squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, canned vegetable, frozen vegetables, canned chakalaka)
    Cooking oil
    Protein 1 or 2x (speckled beans, lentils, chicken chunks or pieces, chicken livers, beef sausage, canned pilchards, soya mince, split peas, soup mix pulses, canned baked beans.
    Spices 2 or 3x (salt, stock cubes, soup powder, curry powder, BBQ spice, Aromat, tomato paste, mayonnaise, chutney)

    So thankful hungry kids are getting a good meal.

    Weekly groceries vary from week to week for seasonal variety.

    How it works:
    Each week Living Hope sources, purchases and delivers a week’s worth of fresh vegetables and dried goods to each of the Mama’s kitchens across the peninsula. Our Mamas have each been equipped with cleaning supplies, basic kitchen staples, and cooking equipment including a slow-cooker Wonderbag which saves time and money in the cooking process. The community leaders are responsible for the cost of the propane gas and electricity it takes to run the kitchen weekly. Thus there is a shared cost. Most meals are served between 2-4pm when school children can receive after their studies, ensuring that everyone receives at least one hot and nutritious meal per day. Our Living Hope Community Health Workers can refer the clients they care for to the kitchens and can collect and deliver the meals to their elderly, disabled or sick clients in their homes! This is also an extremely efficient programme at just an average cost of R6 per meal, excluding the costs that the community contribute towards gas and electricity.

    Why it works:
    These kitchens are a community designed, community-led and community-managed initiative. Living Hope provides administrative support, but these kitchens run on their own steam! Because the kitchens are self-run they also automatically become community regulated. Potential misuse or exclusion are eliminated by the aspect of community accountability. These are not lines of anonymous folks receiving hand-outs. These are familiar faces to each of our Cooking Mamas. They are neighbours and friends. Our Mamas know which folk are most in need and which might be taking advantage.

    How it helps:
    Nutrition is always a key factor in the overall health and development of a community. People living with TB and HIV they must take their daily medications with food. Kids need fuel for their growing minds to get through a school day and men and women need to be sustained through a working day.

    Empowering Results:
    One of our favourite aspects of the kitchens is that it empowers the women who cook. Would you believe that these cooking Mamas are purely volunteers? 2 years of continuous volunteerism with very little turnover! The few Mamas who have left cooking have actually found employment at Living Hope! These women are examples in their community who take great pride in their volunteer work and in giving back to their communities. They cook what they want, when they want, including over the weekend or fit around any income-producing work they might engage in. They can serve the cultural food that is most preferred in their communities and even prepare special dishes on important holidays. Autonomy in their kitchen makes them the service providers for their own community. You can see and feel the joy and devotion each of these ladies brings to their work.

    Cooks attending the slow cooker Wonderbag training.

    No one goes hungry!

    It isn’t necessary to advertise these kitchens. The community all know who will be cooking when. Just as you would know when someone on your street was cooking! 

    The post school rush! Here some examples of popular dishes:

    Rice with chicken and vegetable soup
    Maize pap with soya and vegetable soup
    Samp and beans
    Pasta with pilchards and vegetables
    Vetkoek or steamed bread with vegetable soup

    How can you help? 
    As a church or small group, you can adopt a Cooking Mama by providing support in the form of financial donations, as well as by prayer and encouragement to our Cooking Mamas. For just R600 per week, one kitchen can be supplied with what they need to feed 50-100 people per day (R2400 per month). Because of donors like you, our Mamas are able to provide food consistently to those in need! Last year, 217,000 meals were served through the Living Hope cooking Mamas. Our special thanks to those of our donors who helped to sponsor these cooks!

    If you desire to make a difference in the lives of children, the elderly and the vulnerable facing poverty, please do click the blue button to donate via our website or see our EFT details below. Programs like these and many more are enabled because of your partnership! 


    Victor Thomas
    Executive Director