Hungry, And Tired
Big Issue|Issue 300
This charity has been feeding Cape Town’s hungry for more than 80 years. Never have so many people queued for food.
Marecia Damons

Record numbers of hungry people are queuing for food at The Service Dining Rooms in Cape Town as Covid-19 batters the economy.

The organization has been cooking meals for Cape Town’s hungry for more than 80 years. But the numbers of people coming now are unprecedented, says Operations Manager Karen Cain.

Before Covid hit last year, Cain said, the organization would normally serve breakfast to about 60 to 80 people, and lunch to about 250 people daily. They recently served 177 meals at breakfast, and more than 400 meals at lunch. A new record, says Cain.

FAMILIES SLEEP IN CARS

On Sunday 27 June, President CyrilRamaphosa announced that the country would be moving into adjusted level four of the Covid-19 lockdown. Under these additional restrictions, all gatherings are prohibited, the sale of alcohol is banned, and restaurants and other eateries are permitted to sell food only for takeaway or delivery.

“Since Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday, we’ve had a huge spike in people from the restaurant businesses, the baristas, waiters, chefs, barmen,” said Cain.

“They come in looking very smart. Some of them have got somewhere to live, but they just can’t afford electricity anymore, and they can’t afford the cost of buying food”.

Cain said that before Covid hit, it was mostly homeless people and some of the refugees at Greenmarket Square who came for meals. “But now it’s everyone,” she said.

She said more and more schoolchildren are queuing for food.

“We’ve got children as young as six years old coming here unaided, and you can see that they’re school children because they still have their school uniform on. Some of them take the train or other public transport, and they come to town to join the queue.”

There has also been a spike in the number of families arriving for food, with several living in informal structures and tents behind factories in town, said Cain. “Families are sleeping in cars now. They’ve lost their houses, but they still have their cars. You can see right down at the bottom of the Good Hope Centre. They’ll start their cars in the morning because they’re being moved on, and they move somewhere else during the day because they’ve got a little bit of petrol, and then at night they move back.”

The youngest children coming with their families are about six months old, she says.

The all-women staff consists of seven members. Two volunteers help out on Monday and Thursday.

SOARING DEMAND

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