Back in 1985 whilst doing his service time with the South African Navy in Saldanha Bay, Mark Maingard was given two options: “do you want to be a driver or a chef?”. He chose to be a chef – a decision that set the course for the rest of his life.

Rising into the food industry

After leaving the Navy, Mark started a job at an industrial catering company where he was hired first as a Project Manager and soon worked himself up to become an Area Manager. He then became National Sales and Marketing Manager of a meal management service company and went on to become the Gauteng Regional Director for Royal Food Services. He was on a roll, climbing the corporate ladder, achieving success and gaining 32 years of experience in the food and business industry. Everything was going well and his career was looking bright.

A clear call to feed the poor

But while on holiday in Onrus in 2009, Mark had a dream. He believes that he heard God speak to him, saying: “I trained you in this industry for all these years. I taught you every single aspect of it. Use that and go feed my hungry people.” Tears were flowing down his face. The dream had an enormous emotional effect on him but it did not lead to any action.

It was only four years later when things drastically changed. Mark was involved with a business partner who was dishonest in his dealings, and right in the middle of a meeting he stood up and declared that he would not take part in dishonesty and left the partnership. That was a defining moment in his life – a shift away from chasing money and worldly things. And after that brave decision his life changed dramatically – his high standard of living suddenly became a life of almost having nothing.

During that time Mark time and again found himself driving behind a vehicle labelled: Magda se kombuis. One day a friend invited him to a meeting in the Paarl Community centre and when he walked into the building, he saw the sign: Magda se kombuis. He became overwhelmed with emotions and had to step outside for a few minutes to regroup before going back inside to start helping to hand out food packages.

I will never forget the little girl’s eyes, staring at me, asking me for food. The penny dropped and I knew I had to do something.”

A hall full of people that are receiving food via Magda se kombuis in Paarl. [Photo credit: 2nd Harvest]

The start of 2nd Harvest Food Bank

It was time to act on his dream. The Paarl School of Skills’ kitchen hadn’t been used for almost 15 years and Mark negotiated to rent the facility, fix it up and start using it to do good. He promised Magda that the first soup they cook will be given to her and on 29 July 2016, the first batch of 200 hot meals were delivered to Magda se kombuis. This was the birth of 2nd Harvest (NPO).

An innovative new energy porridge

A group of toddlers at a Paarl ECD centre enjoying their VitaKidz porridge shakes.

2nd Harvest later moved on from providing only hot meals, to including breakfast for children as they realised that many children went to school hungry and struggled to concentrate. They developed a porridge called Vita Kidz – an energy porridge that is served as a shake when you add water. Vita Kidz is developed to give children between 6 months and 6 years up to 65% of their nutritional needs for the day and helps to sustain energy levels.

Today, 2nd Harvest offers breakfast and lunch packages to dozens of soup kitchens and ECDs in the Paarl, Cape Town and George areas.

Mark with his passionate kitchen team at 2nd Harvest that prepares the food.

The 2nd Harvest vision

A couple of years into 2nd Harvest, Mark realised that he doesn’t have to give up his entrepreneurial capabilities to make money and solely do nonprofit work. He can do both.

Today, he operates a few successful businesses where he gives more than 50% of his profit to 2ndHarvest. His dream is for 2ndHarvest to become self-sustainable through various social enterprise. Their vision is to feed 50 000 kids per day by 2020.

“The social investments through Valcare has made a massive impact within the 2nd Harvest organisation. We are able to deliver over 20 000 portions of porridge per month thanks to their contribution.”

God chose him back in 1985, on the parade grounds in Saldanha, when the choice of becoming a chef was presented to him. Today, he cannot imagine doing anything else with his life…

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