October 16, 2020  

Helping more than 33,000 children start each day with full stomachs

Nico Moloto talks about fighting hunger and fueling learning through the Pioneer Foods Schools Breakfast Nutrition Program.

Growing up in a rural village in Limpopo, South Africa, Nico Moloto regularly saw friends and neighbors go without food. In his immediate family, “we never went a day without a meal on the table,” he says, but “not every kid I knew could say that.” 

Still, the little that his parents had, they would share. “My mom knew who was going hungry in the community and would reach out to them,” Nico says. On Fridays and Saturdays, he and his four brothers shared plates of eggs, bread and maize meal with other families in his Lebowakgomo township. “Over the years, doing that became the norm in my life,” Nico says. “It instilled the value of sharing in a bigger way.”

Though he left home for college, studying finance in Johannesburg, Nico never forgot the hunger he’d witnessed in his own village. After a year in high net-worth portfolio management, he applied the analytical skills he’d honed to assist fledgling businesses and small farmers. With hunger and food insecurity affecting more than two billion people globally, and nearly 14 million in South Africa alone, Nico saw the opportunity to make an impact when he joined Pioneer Foods in 2015. “If we are a food company, we are the best to provide a solution around food security,” he says.

If we are a food company, we are the best to provide a solution around food security.

In his role as the Executive for Transformation and Sustainability for PepsiCo in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nico leads the Pioneer Foods Schools Breakfast Nutrition Program. His efforts have helped children in 35 schools across South Africa eat breakfast each school day—to the tune of 23 million meals and counting since 2015.

Nico Motolo visits a school in Tembisa to serve breakfast

Nico sees a bowl of corn flakes, instant maize porridge or Weet-Bix as a simple way to invest in the country’s eventual leaders. “These kids can learn without feeling hungry and are a step closer to a better future and escaping food insecurity.” As proof of concept, he happily points to packed classrooms: Late arrivals are no longer an issue now that students flock in an hour before class in anticipation of a morning meal. “These schools often don’t have electricity or enough desks for the students,” he notes. “We are able to meet a big need.”

As COVID-19 forced schools to temporarily shut their doors, Nico’s efforts took on an added level of importance. More families were in need of the essential foods that Pioneer Foods, which PepsiCo acquired in March, is known for producing. In partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation, the company has delivered more than 10 million meals of staples like maize meal, pasta, beans and rice to many of the country’s most vulnerable communities. “In some cases, we provided two weeks’ worth of groceries,” he says. “I hope these deliveries can make a huge difference.”


I want my kids to be aware of the social challenges in our community.


Though the demand can feel overwhelming and often insurmountable, Nico needs just two reasons to forge ahead—his 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. “I want my kids to be aware of the social challenges in our community,” he says. “I don’t want them growing up only thinking about themselves.”  During the pandemic’s early stages, he, his wife and their children donated food and clothing to a homeless shelter near their Kraaifontein neighborhood. In the future, he hopes his son and daughter will continue the family tradition of paying it forward. “I am trying to instill the importance of giving and sharing,” he says. “I do the same thing that my mom taught me.”