Athwood Primary gets a new kitchen

Marisa Munroe from Woolworths Foods and Athwood Primary School principal, Evan Petersen, in the new kitchen.

The 650 children at Athwood Primary School in Hanover Park, who are fed daily are now able to enjoy their meals in a safe space, thanks to an upgrade made possible by Woolworths employees.

On Friday March 19, the Woolworths Foods head office team handed over a new kitchen and dining area to the school. The project, completed in partnership with Newkidz, involved transforming a container into a functional kitchen and enclosing the courtyard with roofing and seating to create a protected canteen for the pupils. The employees raised a total of R240 000 as part of the retailer’s Just Cause volunteer programme.

Principal Evan Petersen said he was elated, as the previous space used to cook for the pupils, was found to be a safety hazard.

“We feed 650 learners five days a week. We only get a subsidy for 200 learners. With the start of lockdown, our cooks did not get one day off, as we fed the children even during the school holidays.

“We are elated and grateful for the new kitchen and undercover seating area. It looks amazing. I have no doubt that this new facility will inspire our cooks to prepare delicious wholesome meals for our learners. This facility is proof that through education we can improve the lives of our staff, learners and broader community,” said Mr Petersen.

Staff of Athwood Primary honour the cooks, Elsie de Bruyn, 66, seated, left, and Florence Daniels, 61, seated, right. From back left, are, principal Evan Petersen, Natalie Goossen, Lynn Herne, Liesl Arendse, Alicia Moses and Maria Tobias. Seated next to Ms De Bruyn is Vanessa Fisher.

Florence Daniels, 61, and Elsie de Bruyn, 66, are the two dedicated cooks. They said they felt like celebrities at the special hand-over ceremony.

Ms Daniels has been cooking at the school “for many years”, and receives a stipend.

“I started volunteering at the school when my children were still here. That was 16 years ago. I like what I do. Sometimes we would buy bread or vegetables from our own pockets, but we don’t mind. We were spoiled at the hand-over. We appreciate all the spoils,” Ms Daniels said.

Ms De Bruyn said she started volunteering in 2012, when the school was under threat of closure.

“I started by volunteering in the garden. I do it out of the love I have for children. I had no children attending Athwood. Sometimes we use the vegetables we harvest from the food garden in the kitchen. It is such a joy to be here and cook for the children,” Ms De Bruyn said.

The Woolies Foods team not only funded the project but also painted the classroom used previously as a kitchen, and transformed it in an arts and crafts room. They also painted a mural in the courtyard area.

“The Covid 19 pandemic threw us a few curve balls but we are delighted to be able to handover a fully kitted kitchen to Athwood Primary School. We received lots of great proposals from our colleagues for this last year’s Just Cause project so it wasn’t easy for our Diversity Committee to choose Athwood Primary School,” said Marisa Munroe from Woolworths Foods.

“But being Foodies we couldn’t resist the opportunity to design and build Athwood Primary School’s kitchen and dining area for the learners to enjoy their meals. A huge thanks to Newkidz for all their assistance as we could never have taken on such a comprehensive project without their support and expertise.”

The school now also has an undercover dining area for the pupils to enjoy their meals.

Athwood Primary School has been operating as a “no fees” school for 42 years with minimal government funding, so it is reliant on fundraising projects and donations. Pupils are fed two meals a day.

Just Cause is part of the Woolworths Employee Community Involvement Programme that encourages clusters of Woolies employees to identify and propose a community cause that they will support through fundraising. As an added incentive, the Woolworths Trust matches funds raised up to R40 000 for a Just Cause.