Solly Krok just getting started with ending hunger
Ahead of World Hunger Day on 16 October, Krok told the SA Jewish Report he now hopes to take his initiative to other countries, with the vision of creating food security locally with international support.
Called Keep the Wolf from the Door, Krok kicked off his initiative by walking 91km to mark his 91st birthday. Three months later, the initiative has distributed 4 200 food parcels to vulnerable families, having a positive impact on more than 16 800 people. Donations have come from individuals and institutions and have ranged from R30 to hundreds of thousands of rand.
But that was just the beginning of the initiative, in spite of donor fatigue, an unending pandemic, and the enormity of hunger in South Africa and globally.
“This is a ‘pregnancy’ – the initiative hasn’t actually been born yet,” Krok quips. Ultimately, he envisions putting structures in place where companies, factories, restaurants, communities, families, youth, and individuals make combating hunger a way of life. This could range from restaurants and factories needing a licence that enforces the contribution of wasted food, to a small levy on companies to contribute towards combating hunger, to individuals putting aside a little to feed one child for a month.
He is full of quirky and exciting ideas, such as encouraging children and teens to form “Red Riding Hood” clubs – keeping with his theme of a wolf at the door. “They could raise as little as $18 [R297] a month,” which would go towards combating hunger. He also envisions a “Keep the Wolf from the Door” logo being stamped onto food produce, to remind people that not everyone can put bread on the table, and to contribute in any small way they can.
Krok believes that many small initiatives and contributions from many people is the basis of making a big impact. He sees how South Africans “just don’t have the resources” to donate huge amounts, but almost everyone has the capacity to give a little. And by expanding into other countries, he hopes to share the load.
“Every ten seconds, a child dies from hunger somewhere in the world,” says Krok. “Conservative estimates are that since the end of March, 2.2 million South Africans face perpetual hunger with 21% of South Africans reporting that someone in their family has gone hungry in the past seven days, and in households with a child, 15% report that a child has gone hungry in the past seven days.”
Keep the Wolf from the Door uses all donations as a “hand up, not hand out”, says Krok. “We aim to both give and grow food.” The organisation is working in partnership with Afrika Tikkun, which has assisted marginalised people for the past 25 years, and Siyakhana, which establishes model food gardens and offers accredited training for emerging community leaders to develop sustainable food gardens and livelihoods through social entrepreneurship.
“This programme is feeding vulnerable communities in the short term while it assists them to become self-sufficient through education and planting food gardens that provide long-term sustainability,” says Krok. Already, potential young farmers are being trained, with more being identified every month.
However, he wants his organisation to also be its own separate entity, so that donors recognise its unique role and don’t feel that they have already contributed if they have given to other organisations.
Krok is still walking at least 1km a day for his own well-being, but he envisions starting a club that encourages senior citizens to walk with him and in turn, raise awareness about hunger and food security
“We need to teach the world that every time we eat, someone else is going hungry,” he says. “As they say in Yiddish, “Vos du tust far yenem tust du far zich alein” (What you do for others you do for yourself).”
He hopes members of the community will encourage one another to give, and as the pandemic stretches ahead, combating hunger will become an automatic response. “To me, world hunger is the much bigger pandemic,” Krok says. “Even in America, one in nine are on the breadline. And while it doesn’t seem obvious, Jews are also struggling to put bread on the table. I get calls every day.
“In the end, we cannot live in isolation from the challenges our world is facing,” he says. “Each person must say to themselves, ‘Thank G-d I have a meal.’ If you are able to contribute, be thankful you can give, and that you aren’t knocking on doors.”