Statistics show that over over 22 million Nigerians live in hunger, while an estimated 65 percent of the country’s total population live in poverty. The effects of hunger is far reaching and has several effects on the human body as well as on the society.
Emboldened by the clear evidence of hunger in Nigeria, FoodClique Support Initiative has taken it upon itself to end hunger in Nigeria. A nongovernmental organization, FoodClique was founded by Balajoko Fadipe.
The initiative distributes food items and also feeds starving children, the elderly, low-income families, less privileged, disabled, and homeless through its community outreach programmes and partnerships with other agencies.
But FoodClique is not just fighting hunger, the organization is also raising awareness on the dangers of food wastage and empowering less privileged persons to be productive members of society.
In this interview with YNaija, Fadipe speaks on the strides and efforts made by the initiative to end hunger in the country.
What is the mission of FoodClique?
The mission of FoodClique Support Initiative is to reduce food waste, feed the hungry, raise public awareness about the menace of hunger and feed insecure people through distribution of donated or purchased perishable and non-perishable foods.
What birthed the initiative?
In a world where more than 805 million people go to bed hungry, it is difficult not to want to act even though more people are becoming immune to other people’s plight. I grew up in a community where many people were struggling with hunger and a lot of children going to school hungry.
April 27 is my birthday and as a way to mark it, I visit a destitute home to feed them instead of throwing a birthday bash for my friends (I am not against throwing of birthday bash for friends) but as the economic situation became more worrisome with increasing living cost and soaring inflation, I realized that not only the beggars we see on the road were hungry and food insecure but many people were actually suffering from hidden hunger but because of their social status or what people will say, they will rather stay silent.
I discussed with a couple of friends and we decided we must not wait till it gets so bad before we look for solutions on how to fight hunger and address the root cause of poverty.
FoodClique is an initiative that is filling a huge vacuum in society, but why do you do it? What motivates and keeps you going in the face of several challenges?
Like you rightly said, it is a big vacuum but to the Glory of God, volunteers and the board of trustees of FoodClique Support Initiative are the best and most passionate team anyone can work it. Together, we are striving to ensure we close the hunger gap.
We have various programs targeted at reducing hunger. Among our programs are School meal program, Food for tot for the infants, Bag of hope for nursing Mothers, Senior meals program for the elderly. After Hunger Rehabilitation Program (AHRP) e.t.c.
Hunger Relief NGOs worldwide are facing the challenge of funding no thanks to the economic meltdown but world leaders are beginning to see the importance of zero hunger in relations to a country’s development and this was evident during the United Nation General Assembly where world leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari promised to ensure zero hunger by 2030 and support the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG).
Also, Senator Theodore Orji sponsored the freedom from hunger bill at the Nigerian senate with an overwhelming support by other senators including the president of Senate, Bukola Saraki.
I was invited to the public hearing of the bill to suggest recommendations which hopefully will be considered when it becomes an act. When you look at all these achievements including the numbers of meals we have provided for those in need, it is enough to motivate me and the FoodClique team to want to do more knowing fully well that all challenges will be a thing of the past and we will defeat Hunger.
What exactly does your Food4Tot program entail?
This program is targeted at meeting the food needs of our smallest friends who are unable to eat prepared meals or staple foods we regularly give our beneficiaries. Have you ever imagined a toddler going through hunger? Well this is the situation many toddlers of the less privileged and single mothers go through often. Our Food4Tots program ensures that there will be enough baby formula for all of the infants that rely on FoodClique. Continuously though, we are looking for businesses, churches, individuals or groups who are willing to sponsor our food 4 tot by donating cans of baby formula to us to ensure we feed our youngest and most vulnerable friends.
How successful have you been in raising awareness on the problem of hunger?
Apart from social media pages being an important medium to raise awareness about hunger, we have also exploited other avenues to raise awareness on the problem of hunger. We were the charity partner for the Lagos City Marathon recently held in Lagos and it afforded us the opportunity to educate more people about hunger. Over time, we have built a reputation because of the truth and dignity we have upheld in the discharge of our duty to humanity.
We have been mentioned in local and foreign media, on radios stations, print media and blog sites across the world. We were the official charity partner for Lagos State Sports Commissions. Our feats have been commended by World Food Program (WFP), Ending Hunger (Italy), ONE (USA), Agent of Hope (USA and also featured on eNews South Africa as a leading hunger relief charity organization in Nigeria. I won the Spirit of Lagos Award and all these have provided us opportunity to raise awareness about the difficulties citizens go through being without food.
Aside the physical and physiological dangers of hunger, what other effects does hunger have?
Hunger as a global problem is undeniable. Even to a lay person, the current spate of events is discerning. Economies are crashing, jobs are being lost on daily basis, conflicts and climate change is making us more susceptible to hunger more than ever. This makes me realize hunger is a national threat and a plague which threatens humanity, the ability of citizens to become productive and contributing members of society, which in turn threatens the future Nigeria prosperity.
How are you working towards reducing food waste?
Food waste is a major cause of climate change, it also breaks the food distribution chain and it leads to hunger. During the public hearing on the hunger bill sponsored by Senator Orji, among our recommendations were that food companies, grocery stores, canteens and other commercial food vendors should redistribute their excess food to serve immediate needs of socially vulnerable hungry citizens. Via redistribution and repackaging of near expiration date foods, food waste is curbed immensely.
We opined that those that go against it should be punished with a fine because throwing away edible foods is like stealing from the table of the poor. Discussion is in advance stage with some supermarkets in Nigeria to donate surplus food to us and we will be starting an advocacy in schools to educate people about food waste because apart from the financial cost of producing these unsold foods, the environmental cost is equally staggering. In France, it is a crime for large retail stores to waste food; in the UK big retail stores like starbucks will begin donating unsold food to charities soonest.
Has FoodClique made any impact so far?
Worldwide, hunger relief NGO are making impact and FoodClique is not doing badly. Since inception we have delivered more than 100,000 meals and empowered numerous citizens. Through our various programs, people are beginning to see us as the last hope between being full and sleeping hungry.
Finally, in as much as we want to do more and make more impact, the limited resource we have is hindering us but in spite of this, we are optimistic of a future together without Hunger.
Photography by Aladekoba Adeleke Segun and Erosphotography