Are you curious about how the students of St Jude’s get their hot, nutritious meals on their dinner tables each day? As part of St Jude’s local supplier strategy, the school invests time and money into acquiring locally sourced ingredients.
Once the ingredients have been sourced and delivered, it goes through a verification process before either being stored or cooked fresh each day. These meals are then served to students for breakfast and dinner. As for tea and lunchtime, both the students and the staff at St Jude’s are nourished.
On average, over $325,000 is budgeted for food each year, with $5,800 spent on fruits and vegetables each month. Around 29,000 hot meals are served each week which adds up to over one million meals served every year! So, what exactly does the journey from Shamba (farm in Kiswahili) to the dinner table look like?
The word Shamba is Kiswahili for Farm. Although St Jude’s has its own Shamba at Smith Campus, cultivating different fruits and vegetables such as cucumber and sukuma wiki (a spiniach-like vegetable), it supplements the school’s ability to support the local economy, by supporting local farmers.
Once a year, tons and tons of grain are purchased during the harvesting seasons. For maize, which is the key ingredient for the nation’s most beloved dish ugali (like a stiff porridge, similar to polenta), the season is from August to September. For rice, the harvesting season tends to be from May to July. The grains are stored in a warehouse facility on Sisia Campus in Moshono, Arusha where it is divided and sent out to the different campuses on a as needed basis.
To ensure the freshness of perishable food items, such as fruits, vegetables and eggs, the school receives supplies every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This includes tea break bites such as the local favorite mandazi (a fried doughnut-like bread), bread rolls or scones which are currently purchased from the local Sunkist Bakery. So, the first part of the journey starts with the cultivation and acquisition of ingredients directly from the farmers and bakery.
The next part of the journey, delivering from the farms to the school, typically involves a wholesaler. While some wholesalers have their own farmers, most are the middlemen in the delivery process.
St Jude’s strongly believes in equal opportunity. So, to give all suppliers in the area a fair chance, tender is advertised for two weeks before farmers and wholesalers are decided upon. The contract is then awarded after a tender ceremony, which means ongoing financial support for the selected suppliers, thus creating economic growth opportunities that ripple throughout the community.
After the fresh produce has made the journey from the farmers to the school gates, in the back of a wholesaler's truck, the verification process begins.
Once the wholesalers arrive at the school’s gate with the produce, the guard will notify the Purchasing Department. There are verifiers from different teams, each contributing one staff member to be on duty each day. The verifiers will come to the gate and the verification process will begin. The food is examined to ensure all produce is of sound quality and the quantity has been measured correctly. Once that is done, a team member from the Marketing team will come to take photos which will be sent alongside a thank you email to all donors and sponsors that make the arrival of this food possible. Afterwards, the food either goes into storage or is sent over to the cooks.
The food has now made it to the cooks! Generally, the food is prepared on woodfire or gas stoves. The well-trained cooks prepare the meals with passion and zest, ensuring quality, nutrition, and flavor. The students of St Jude’s gather at the dining hall where their laughter and conversation quieten down when the food has arrived on their plates.
St Jude’s views mealtimes as more than food. Mealtimes are a chance for the students to learn about the value of nutrition and how it is key to keeping their bodies and minds healthy. They will carry this knowledge with them throughout their lives and share it with loved ones to ensure the ongoing welfare of their communities long after they’ve left the dinner table.