Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.

by Topsy Foundation
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Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.
Feed 5000 impoverished children in South Africa.

The Topsy Foundation - a registered Non-Profit Company and Public Benefit Organisation – has been serving the rural communities of the sub-district of Dipaleseng situated in Gert Sibande in the most southern part of Mpumalanga for 20 years. As of the end of 2020, we expanded our reach to serve the communities of the Govan Mbeki local Municipality also situated in the Gert Sibande District in Mpumalanga.

Dipaleseng is often referred to as a forgotten part of the country due to its scant infrastructure and lack of large-scale industry. It is home to several large rural communities situated around Balfour, Grootvlei and Greylingstad. While eMbalenhle is a peri-urban settlement/township, the challenges faced are also similar to Dipaleseng.

The communities can be described we work in typically face the following challenges:

  • High levels of unemployment
  • Low average educational and skills levels
  • The majority of homes are single female/child/elderly headed
  • Very low average income
  • High levels of poverty,
  • Poor service delivery
  • lack of resources


Nutrition and Food Security Support

According to Stats SA, Mpumalanga is amongst the three provinces with the highest percentage of households with severely inadequate access to nutritional food at 12.3%. This is almost twice the national average. This is true of both the communities we work in where many households are single-female-headed with little to no income. While many vulnerable households are receiving child/pension/disability grants, this is usually not enough to meet the basic needs of families which are usually three or more individuals and extended families in one household are common. The continued rise of food costs and a combination of low to no income means that many families eat what they can afford, which usually does not meet the minimum nutritional requirements. The most affected are children with 16.7% of children aged five years and younger living in food poverty. Without adequate nutrition, children are not able to grow and reach their developmental milestones and are more susceptible to malnutrition, stunting and diminished health.

An integral component of Topsy’s strategy to strengthen families and communities is to enable and assist communities served to establish, grow and maintain vegetable gardens as a supplemental nutritional source. Community members are taught how to start and maintain these and supplied with seeds, and basic gardening tools including a garden hose. Provided certain criteria are met (including dedicated gardeners and sufficient land), food gardens are established in ECD centres, at primary and high schools, and all sites must distribute excess produce back into the community at no cost. Topsy also maintains its own food garden at its Play and Learn Centre in order to feed staff, the many visiting children and their teachers.





Topsy has the following partnerships in Dipaleseng, which will extend to Govan Mbeki and allow us to provide additional support to ECD centres:

  • Breadline Africa provides infrastructural improvements for Early Childhood Development Centres, usually in fully equipped  
  • classroom containers
  • Food Forward provides food it has collected from supermarkets that are nearing their expiry date and distributes it to NPOS
  • Rise Against Hunger provides fortified rice bags that contain protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is a nutritious and complete meal that  
  • we give to ECD centres and families who are in desperate need
  • Care for Education (Lego) sponsorship of Lego and Duplo playsets
  • UPD provides medication and toiletries for our pharmacy
  • Head Start Kids provides Nutrilite Little Bits, a micronutrient supplement for malnourished children which, when taken daily, provides
  • nutrients needed to grow and develop a healthier brain and body.
  • VKB donates bread to all ECD and Stimulation Centres we work with


Impact of nutrition support in the ECD centres

 To ensure that vulnerable children in our programme receive a nutritious meal, ECD centres that we work with are required to have a vegetable garden. We also provide centres with supplements and nutritional meal packs. When a child has access to inadequate nutrition they are protected against malnutrition, have a healthy immune system, can take in and retain what they have learned and prevents chronic diseases.  A total of 2772 children benefit from the 36 ECD centres we work with.


Head Start Kids Story

We work with Head Start Kids to improve nutrition for children in ECD centres. Topsy receives Little Bits™ for children six months old to five (under six years) old. This is one of the success stories since we introduced HSK Little Bits™ Supplementation to our programme: 

My name is Bongi Makwanazi, I am the Staff nurse working with different ECD centres, where we observe the health and growth of children regularly. We are happy to be getting the vitamin supplement for the children because they help stimulate their brains and build their bodies. We work with ECD centres exclusively, they put the powder supplement on the children's cooked food.  Working with centres makes it easier to do frequent follow-ups with the children.

One of the success stories from the ECD centres is Star, who always had a runny nose and was underweight. When she started with HSK, she weighed 11kg. I am happy to say that there is an improvement; she is now 14kg, her length is 85.1cm and doing well. Her teachers have also seen an improvement. She was not active in the class before but now participates in the different class activities.     


What have been the benefits of establishing vegetable gardens even beyond the ECD centres?

 While improvements have been made, food security remains a challenge in South Africa. This is caused by the worsening high unemployment rate. In response, we are supporting the three communities in Dipaleseng Subdistrict municipality and eMbalenhle in Govan Mbeki municipality by empowering them to establish food gardens which are a sustained source of nutritious food.

Families with children identified as at-risk are recruited into the project. One person is trained to establish a garden which will give them access to nutritious food, improving the health and wellness of the children and their families. Over eleven thousand individuals benefit from the vegetable gardens in individual homes, communal gardens and primary schools.

The Nutritional Support Project aims to:

• Teach beneficiaries how to establish and maintain home gardens and encourage the production and             consumption of vegetables

• Teach practical nutrition education to promote healthy diets and lifestyles

• Provide beneficiaries with a tool for survival at times of food shortages

• Familiarise beneficiaries with methods of sustainable production of food that applies to their homestead      and is important for household food security

• Promote income-generation opportunities.

We also support families identified as in need with food parcels and meal packs that contain all the vitamins and minerals required for a balanced meal, along with sanitary products to about 150 households comprising 600 people between them. The vegetable gardens have brought joy and a sense of purpose to those working in their gardens. They have beautified the communities and enabled some beneficiaries to have a source of income by selling surplus vegetables.


 World Food Day

World Food Day highlights global food insecurity and mobilises countries to mitigate hunger. Nutrition is one of the key focus areas in ECD as we recognise the negative impact of hunger on children and its effect on education. We commemorated the day by highlighting the importance of food security and nutrition with the centres we work with. Teachers taught children the importance of nutrition, and how to clean food. Lessons were held outside in the garden and with some of the children picking veggies. While the children are too young to realise the day’s importance, they had fun learning.  


                     Thank you for supporting The Topsy Foundation!

Growth monitoring of a child receiving HSK
Growth monitoring of a child receiving HSK
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 Good nutrition is the foundation of a child’s health and development. A well-nourished child will grow and learn better and eventually become an adult who contributes positively to society. However, to date, at least 2 million children in South Africa are living in food poverty which leads to malnutrition, increasing child mortality and creating long-term health problems and stunting. Associated with poor brain development, stunting affects a child’s cognitive development, educational attainment and productivity in adulthood which in turn affects the development potential of a nation. 

The most affected children are those living in rural areas like the communities we work in. Through our partnership with twenty-four ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres, we work to improve nutrition for one thousand five hundred children between the ages of three and six. This is done through the establishment of vegetable gardens, which is one of the criteria for a continued partnership with The Topsy Foundation. Centres are provided with seeds and trained to maintain their garden; The vegetables are then cooked at the centres for the children and also assist the centres to save money as they buy less food, and the money can be used towards other needs of the centres. 

 We have partnered with other organisations with a similar goal of improving access to nutrition and ending hunger. Topsy has been working with Rise Against Hunger (RAH) for five years. We receive meal packs from RAH which are distributed to the ECD Centre. The meal packs contain a comprehensive array of micronutrients, including enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and twenty-three essential vitamins and nutrients. 

 Another partner is Head Start Kids (HSK), a local NGO whose mission is to eradicate child malnutrition by helping us improve nutrition. They provide us with Nutrilite™ Little Bits™ – a micronutrient supplement for malnourished children, which when taken daily, provides children with the nutrients they need to grow and develop a healthier brain and body. Children taking the supplement are observed in the form of health screenings to identify changes in their growth and health. 

The health screenings included: 

  • Track each child’s measurements for weight, height and MAUC 
  • Administer deworming 
  • Perform Hearing and eye assessments
  • Perform haemoglobin screening in severe cases 

Before the partnership with HSK, Topsy has been providing health screenings for all children in our programme at our Play and Learn Centre. 

All our partnerships are important and enable us to provide essential services to children in vulnerable communities, this includes all our donors. An investment in these children is the way to break the cycle of poverty and create a brighter for vulnerable children.

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Vegetable garden in home of beneficiary
Vegetable garden in home of beneficiary

Food insecurity has always been a problem in South Africa, but when the pandemic started, the number of families without food increased rapidly. Donations that came through the GlobalGiving platform and other donors have gone towards emergency food parcels was a great benefit allowing us to distribute 1000 food parcels to families needing food. Beneficiaries of these parcels were chosen based on the below criteria.

The criteria for choosing these families are as follows: 

  • Children under the age of 6 and no income
  • Single parent
  • Foster parent
  • Elderly headed home
  • Child headed home
  • Persons living with disability

The high levels of food insecurity result in many families eating what they can, which usually does not meet the nutrient requirements for a balanced meal, leading to high numbers of malnutrition and stunting in children in their developmental years. To ensure children in our programme are receiving nutritious meals, our response is to provide our ECD centres partners and beneficiaries in our OVC (Orphaned and Vulnerable Child) project with nutritious meal packs. We were fortunate to get a donation by Ogilvy South Africa for 5000 meal packs from Rise Against Hunger, an international non-profit organisation working to alleviate hunger in the world. The meal packs comprise fortified rice, soya for protein and a vitamin sachet resulting in a complete and nutritious meal. Meal packs were packed by Ogilvy staff members.

We believe that a hand up is a better option than a handout, that is why we pride ourselves in empowering beneficiaries by teaching them to establish food gardens. This is a lifelong skill that is beneficial because beneficiaries can always provide for themselves, a sustained source of nutritious food for free. Here are some of the stories of beneficiaries of the Vegetable Garden Project. 

Billy lives alone at Marikana section in Extension 26, an informal settlement in Embalenhle. He lives in He is actively seeking employment and his only means of income is the temporary social grant. Before joining our Food Security and Nutrition Project he already had a vegetable garden but was not able to expand it because he did not have the money for seeds and fertilizer. 

His garden has been described by one of the Community Field Workers as “Neatly kept and well-maintained”. It was clear from the beginning that Billy has a passion for gardening. He would buy seeds and fertilizer with the little money he makes from doing odd jobs cleaning people’s yards. Being part of the Food Security and Nutrition Project now means he will receive seeds, nets to secure his garden, and fertilizers. He is not working which means he received emergency food parcels and rice packs for a period of three months to help him get on his feet. 

We continue to do monthly visits to his home to check his progress and how he continues to maintain his garden. He will receive advice from our Head Gardner to make sure that his garden continues to produce crops he can sell and eat.


Tebello is a mother of two children. Both she and her husband do not work. The only income they get is the social support grant for their children, which is not enough to meet their needs. 

With employment being scarce and families like Tebello's who rely solely on the child grant, have to find ways to feed themselves and provide for their basic needs. They have to find ways that will be cost-effective and won’t need any or as little money to maintain. Gardening is a great tool to minimize monthly spending, it is easy to take care of the garden allow will save money that will be used on other basic needs. This is the reason amongst others that Tebello decided to start her garden with the help of her husband they have continued to plant vegetables that guarantees them a daily meal for them and their children.

After conducting a family assessment by a community care worker they were advised to extend their garden to utilize the space they have which means they can have more vegetables to sell and get money.

Topsy Foundation assisted the Moloi family by giving them seeds, soil fertilizers and gardening tools to grow their vegetable great benefits from their garden. Our community care workers will continue to make home visits to the family to monitor their progress and offer assistance where needed.


With the high unemployment rate in the communities we work with, many people have been left feeling dejected. We have seen the joy and sense of purpose the vegetable gardens have brought to those working in their gardens. They have beautified the communities and enabled some beneficiaries to have a source of income by selling surplus vegetables. Your donations are bringing hope to those in a hopeless situation. The Topsy Foundation would like to thank you for your continued support!

Tebello working in her garden
Tebello working in her garden
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Our Holistic Early Childhood Programme is based in rural and peri-urban communities in Mpumalanga. The challenges facing these communities include high levels of unemployment, low levels of education, food insecurity and high crime. Increasing unemployment numbers are what have contributed to high poverty and food insecurity in many communities. The unemployment rate in South Africa is one of the highest in the world at 34.4%. This number does not include those who have given up looking for a job.

For many families, the only source of income is through informal employment, which only meets the most basic needs of families. As a result of the lockdown, these scarce job opportunities are no longer available leaving many more families vulnerable and hungry.

Our response to assisting these communities has been to empower them with the lifelong skills of food gardening, where they are trained and mentored by our Head Gardener. People in the project have a sustained source of nutritious food, with Topsy providing training and mentorship to establish food gardens. Families receive tools and seeds to grow carrots, onions, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, and beetroot. Emergency food parcels are received by the family for a period of three months until the garden is fully established. The surplus produced from individual gardens can be sold by the grower.

The criteria for choosing these families include:

 Children under the age of six (6)

  • Orphan
  • Single parent
  • Foster parents
  • Persons living with a disability
  • Elderly person
  • Child-headed family

Community gardens are also grown in schools, churches, ECD centres and open spaces within the community. Our staff on the ground worked hard to reach as many families as possible in need of food security.

14 000 individuals were reached through the programme, almost doubling the number from 2019/2020.



 We have seen the positive impact the vegetable gardens have on the community we work with, beautifying many of the spaces and creating a sense of purpose for those working on the gardens. Here is some of their feedback.

Elizabeth works at the garden in Siyathemba Secondary School

“I started working in the garden that Mr Hadebe and his wife started at the beginning of this year (2021) because I lost my job at Republic Cafe. The reason is that I do not have a job. It's pointless for me to stay at home and complain about the government not providing jobs. I thought why not come to the garden and learn something. I enjoy learning about the food I plant. For example, green beans boost your immune system, beetroot lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

We also have chillies and herbs which we sell to the Indian community here who use them for cooking. They like herbs like coriander. The chillies make their food very spicey. We have a good relationship with them, they enjoy our fresh herbs and veggies. What I love about working in the garden is that when I'm done at the end of the day, I can take something home for the children to eat.

We are happy that Topsy helps us, but we need more help, for example, a JoJo tank. Water is a problem in the area and that affects the quality of our garden. We were going to add beetroot and mustard spinach but because of the water situation, we can't. We also need a hosepipe; we only have one for this big garden."

Mr Magagula Deputy Principal of Siyathemba Secondary School

“We are in support of the garden project that Topsy is doing here in the community and at our school. The ones who benefit the most are the children in grades ten to twelve doing agricultural studies. They can come out to the garden for their practical's. Their teacher wants to explain something it’s the same, they come out and experience it in the garden, can touch the soil and understand better. It also benefits the community as a whole as an extension of relations between the school and the community.”

Martha, growing vegetables for her Grandchildren

Martha (62) lives in Grootvlei with her husband and grandchildren and they both receive pension grants. Martha is a granny who loves to garden, spending a lot of time on her vegetable garden and flowers in her yard. Martha is part of the vegetable garden project. She received seeds, compost, gardening tools and training on how to start a vegetable garden from Topsy. 

“Before knowing of Topsy, I use to buy spinach and tomatoes seed only because that’s all I could afford. But now I receive different seeds from Topsy and my garden is big enough to feed my family. I don’t have to struggle to feed my grandchildren because there are fresh vegetables in my yard. I also make a little bit of money by selling some of the vegetables, so I buy bread and other things for the house with vegetable garden money.”

Involvement in our project kept him from making bad decisions

Sibusiso started a vegetable garden through Topsy as a distraction to avoid getting involved with bad crowds and to focus on being positive while unemployed. He has two children and is one of the many unemployed people in Dipaleseng depending on his income on the vegetable garden and odd jobs he finds around the community like doing gardens, building shacks and general handyman jobs.

The reason he chose to focus on doing a vegetable garden is that he developed a love of gardening from his parents. He says, "My mother and father were the ones to taught us how to do gardening. I received seeds for free from Topsy and that has been a huge benefit for me since I am unemployed like many young people in my community. Trying to earn a living is hard these days. The gardening help eases the stress of poverty because each day I can receive something to eat that's free and healthy from my garden."

Without your donation, we will not be able to respond adequately to the pandemic that is food insecurity in our communities. We would like to thank you for your help!

Elizabeth working in the garden
Elizabeth working in the garden
Martha in her garden
Martha in her garden
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Mother and children
Mother and children

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis report is an organisation that analyses food security in the Southern African Development Community. They have found that from January to March 2021, 11.8 million people in South Africa are at the crisis level of IPC ( Integrated Phase Classification), meaning they marginally meet the minimum food needs or have large food consumption gaps causing malnutrition. 

We are proud that we are playing our part in changing the statistics. To date we reach over 13 000 individuals, empowering them with skills and tools to have a sustainable source of food.


                                             Growing our footprint in EMbalenhle

Embalenhle is an area where Sasol, one of our most significant and long-standing donors, has its operations and asked The Topsy Foundation to replicate the programme we have in Dipaleseng. Even though Embalenhle is more urban than the communities in Dipaleseng, some challenges they face are similar. There is food insecurity, poor access to quality early learning, and some children not having birth certificates, meaning they do not have access to grants and other services. To get to know the communities and build relationships and trust, we have started with one of the pillars of support Topsy offers, The Food Security and Nutrition project.

We have identified 1703 new households with orphaned and vulnerable children, or that come from single parents, child-headed or elderly headed homes. We provide the families with food parcels for three months and assistance to establish food gardens with tools, seeds, training, and mentoring through our Food Security and Nutrition Project. Other gardens are established in schools, ECD centres and open spaces around the communities. We have empowered communities in Embalenhle to establish 551 gardens, providing food security and nutrition for 10,602 individuals.

According to the "UNICEF Child Poverty in South Africa" findings, 42% of children in South Africa are multidimensionally and income poor. We try to assist the families in Embalenhle with income to assist them in registering for a child support grant. We have identified 32 families to help with the lengthy process of applying for birth certificates or ID documents, to obtain social grants. Receiving this grant every month, in conjunction with maintaining a vegetable garden, will allow the families to buy other household essentials such as meat, electricity or baby items.

We are developing relationships with Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, with the aim to partner with them in the future when we begin to implement phase two of the project in 2021, which is delivering the early learning services offered by Topsy in Emblenhle. These centres will receive food parcels; practitioners will receive training, and the children in those ECD centres will receive the five pillars of services that form part of our Holistic Early Childhood Development Programme:

1. Nutritional support through sustainable vegetable gardens and food donations

2. Educational support in the form of training ECD practitioners and educational resources

3. Growth monitoring to identify and prevent stunting

4. Psycho-social support from our nurses, community care workers and social auxiliary workers.

5. Caregiver and parental support workshops


                               Improving Access to Early Childhood Development (ECD)

ECD centres reopened on 15th February 2020, after being closed for a long period due to the lockdown. Meeting with the principals and the practitioners of the ECD partners, we planned a way forward for the new year. One of the steps we have taken is implementing ECD enrichment training to help children fall behind to catch up.

It is devastating that only 22 of the 29 ECD centres we worked with pre-COVID are fully open. Most of the centres have 50% of the number of children attending.

To provide crucial early learning and stimulation for children who are not attending ECD centres, we engage with the families through our community care workers and assist them. We provide them with African language storybooks and Duplo Lego Blocks sponsored by our partner "Care for Education" We teach the caregivers how best to use the blocks and books in our Parental/Caregiver Capacity Project.


                                                               In Conclusion 

 As the pandemic continues to create challenges in many communities in South Africa, the most vulnerable are the most affected. We will continue to make a difference through the services we provide to minimize the impact that is felt.

Family garden
Family garden
Community garden beneficiary
Community garden beneficiary
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Organization Information

Topsy Foundation

Location: Johannesburg, Gauteng - South Africa
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @topsytweets
Project Leader:
Sarah du Toit
Johannesburg , Gauteng South Africa
$3,086 raised of $13,830 goal
55 donations
$10,744 to go
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