As South Africa slowly moves towards the safe reopening of businesses and public spaces, many are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable individuals and households. When the national lockdown began in March, many nonprofit organisations quickly pivoted towards food security in recognition that food needs would increase because of the loss of jobs.
Dell Young Leaders alum Knowledge, from the graduating class of 2016, offered his insight on food insecurity tied to the pandemic. He currently works as a procurement manager for a global food distribution company.
“In the food industry, food is needed now more than ever,” Knowledge said. “We have been working hard making food parcels for the government to give to those most in need in our country. Many families rely on these parcels every evening to prevent them from going hungry. This is a matter of serving the nation and ensuring that hunger is minimized to the lowest possible level. During a pandemic, I also recognize food is important to boosting and maintaining a strong immune system.”
Life as an Essential Worker
As Knowledge navigates his role as an essential service worker, he is balancing his competing roles within his family and his community.
“In the food sector, there is so much interaction with different people from different companies and departments, making it hard to maintain social distancing,” Knowledge said. “We are taking precautionary measures, but it is a concerning situation as we still have to go back to our respective families. Should we have somehow contracted the disease during our line of work, we risk spreading the virus back to them.”
At the same time, Knowledge recognises that employment during the COVID-19 pandemic is something many South Africans have lost due to the closure of businesses. Vulnerable households increasingly have to rely on savings and borrow from friends and family.
Reflecting on a short period of unemployment after a contract ended, Knowledge said, “As much as these conditions are not ideal at the moment, I am grateful to still be employed. When you have experienced unemployment for any amount of time, you appreciate being employed. When I wake up in the morning, I know I have a job.”
A Young Professional Leading the Way
Beyond displaying resilience and perseverance like many Dell Young Leaders alumni on the front lines, Knowledge has emerged as a leader in these unprecedented times.
“I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone in my office-bound role and help in other various departments within the organisation,” Knowledge said. “With all that’s happening right now, you cannot just call yourself a manager, you have to go beyond what is expected and lend a helping hand wherever it is needed. It is not about status, but taking ownership to improve the situation for all South Africans. I constantly need to do more than just coming into work, because right now, it is not just about me. Whatever I do, people are looking up to me and that encourages me as a young professional.”