Meals on Wheels CEO Nelisa Mabenge has described her job, at the helm of one of the largest humanitarian organizations, as ‘fulfilling and challenging’.

Mabenge, who is in her second year in charge of Meals on Wheels, a Non-profit organization that distributes close to 3 million meals a year, derives merriment and fulfilment from seeing the less fortunate have something on their table.

“It is extremely fulfilling to be able to see and make a difference to someone’s life by making sure that hunger is one of the experiences they don’t have to worry about. Feeding the vulnerable, and taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves is fulfilling not just for me but also for the organization,” Mabenge tells “It’s also very challenging because it’s a national rollout and like any other operation it comes with many challenges.  We go through those and we try and do post-mortems of how we have been doing things. We have introspection as an organization to see how much more we can do. I think the journey is very much fulfilling.  We hope we can roll this out as a global initiative. Hunger is not just confined to South Africa but it is a global pandemic.”

With high levels of inequality, unemployment, poverty, diseases, electricity crisis and other social ills, South Africa is one of the hardest hit by hunger. Mabenge is adamant that the war on hunger can be won. She is determined, through her organisation, to move many from below the poverty line.

“The poverty situation is quite dire in South Africa. We have various variables at play. You are looking at increased population, the high level of unemployment, water shortage crisis, electricity crisis, and global climate change playing a role and being a food security risk. All these things play a role in terms of our situation of poverty in the country. Taking this into consideration we can only win the war if we are proactive. We have to have proactive solutions that are addressing the economic climate, unemployment situation, and solutions that are addressing even the social ills because we can’t divorce social ills from poverty,” says Mabenge.

Annually, Meals on Wheels provides over 30 million meals across the country. Mabenge and her team are working hard to reduce the number.

“We have to look at more sustainable solutions over and above the current short-term interventions that we are embarking on. Our core business is to feed the vulnerable but this is a short-term intervention. It is also enabling this dependency syndrome where we are feeding beneficiaries every day and they keep queuing for food every day. It’s a matter of asking ourselves after feeding, what do we do? I think once this introspection has taken place, it then pushes us into the right direction to see what more long-term sustainable interventions can be embarked on by the organisation,” remarks Mabenge.

“Ours is not to increase the queues but it is rather to shorten them. So it means providing solutions over and above the feeding. How can we see to it that they continue to feed but feed themselves instead of us having to feed them? These are more of the long-term interventions that the organisation needs to begin taking into consideration so that we begin to see a more empowered society.”

Mabenge is of the view that it will take the collective to make a dent on hunger and poverty.

“Meals on Wheels is celebrating its 59th year anniversary this year of continued dedicated service. Ours is to focus on our futuristic approach of reducing that dependency syndrome by rolling out our empowerment incubation programme with our corporate partners and government stakeholders. We call upon all corporate entities and government stakeholders to play a role in ensuring that our communities are empowered to fend for themselves in future,” urged Mabenge.

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