A restaurant in Durban has been converted into a soup kitchen to help vulnerable communities with a bowl of hot soup.

Bellevue Cafe in Kloof is helping a non-profit organisation Zero2Five Trust by turning its closed restaurant into a soup kitchen and will deliver food to informal settlements and children’s homes in the Upper Highway area.

Restaurants across South Africa have been closed since the start of the lockdown and there aren’t any definite answers on when they’ll be back, spelling uncertainty for owners and staff – many who live on tips alone.

Zero2Five Trust provides nutrition, education and play skills to early childhood development centres in  KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The soup buckets will bolster the existing programme called “FilltheSchoolMealGap”, where learners who received breakfast at school, are now continuing to receive this under lockdown.

CEO Julika Falconer says, “A lot of them are running out of money for electricity and gas so a lot of households are not cooking at the moment, it’s just a wonderful thing to have these hygienic, sealed 5 litre buckets of a good meal…”

“We’re hoping for everybody to have a good instant breakfast and then a cooked meal for any time of the day. There are a lot of child-headed households and children’s homes in the upper highway area in particular eMpolweni, Shongweni, Shongweni dam, Dassenhoek. That’s where we will start.”

Owner Guy Cluver says it is a chance to give back, in more ways than one. “My waitron crew earn probably 60-75% of their income through tips and they were sitting at home – we did a voucher fundraiser that raises money for them but it only goes so far, so this is a wonderful way to get them to earn money, stay in contact because we’re all missing each other, I can sit at home and lose a lot of money or I can make a difference and lose some money, but it’s positive.”

Nonhlanhla Cele, a mother to two has been working at the restaurant for ten years and is now an integral part of the soup kitchen project.

Cele says, “It has been hard because we are trying to be away from people, keeping safe at home. But in other ways, we are very happy because we are trying to stay safe. I’m not worried we’ve got good management; they’ve been supporting us throughout from the 1st day of lockdown till now…”

“I’m sure other people are worried because they don’t know what is going to happen after this, we hope God is going to help us through these tough times.”

Cluver says he’s been overwhelmed by his loyal patrons who’ve bought meal vouchers that have kept their staff paid through these trying times.

Cluver says, “We’re part of the community and we’re seeing it around the world that restaurants are becoming soup kitchens and creating solidarity funds for their staff because without these people we’re nothing. And we have an obligation that we survive as businesses so we can employ people on the other side of this crisis. I get phone calls every day from customers asking how we are, what can they do to help. It’s overwhelming.”