The government’s unwillingness and sometimes inability to provide food for the poorest, most vulnerable children in our communities have been in the news lately.
The big story isn’t even in Africa, it is unfolding in the UK where 22-year footballer, Marcus Rashford has taken on the UK government for voting against providing underprivileged children with food parcels during school holidays and Covid shutdowns. Rashford received “overwhelming support” as he put it, from organisations and restaurants who pledged to provide food and assistance, even though they are also struggling during these trying times. To see a global superstar, who earns millions of pounds a year, working at the food bank during this Covid Pandemic and risking his life to feed those less fortunate than himself, is truly inspirational.
We have similar problems here, as too many kids rely on school feeding schemes for food for themselves and their families, and shutdowns and school holidays often mean going hungry. Fighting for food security is a job for everyone and anyone. Manchester United’s premier goal scorer proved that. Here in South Africa, it was a different set of superstars that took up the mantle of feeding those in need. Their costumes include a Toque Blanche (Chef’s hat) and white double-breasted jacket, and they are worn by those superheroes who fry, not fly…On the 20th of October 2020, the World celebrated International Chefs Day. Homegrown heroes from the Holiday Inn Group led by Chef Khumalo, spent the day at the Tshepang Care Centre, in the Vusumuzi community in Kempton Park and put a culinary spin on the meals that were served at the feeding scheme. The Tshepang Care Centre, which has been lovingly run by Sarah since 2012, houses orphans and feeds between 200 and on occasion as many as 500 kids (and adults) per day, 7 days a week. They never turn anyone away and some of the children walk up to 2 hours to and fro the Centre to collect food. Currently, the Centre relies on donations for food (except for the spinach they grow there).
It was a very special occasion and the excitement that morning was palpable. Khuthaza Foundation was invited by the RySky Foundation’s Annamarie, (who helped organise the event) to attend the day and to do an Ecobrick and waste management Workshop.
Our workshop was attended by about 200 kids and 20 adult volunteers, including the chefs who learned about ecobricking, some for the first time. There was much excitement as kids enjoyed the activity. We got them to stuff some dry plastic waste into cold drink bottles and compress them with sticks, while talking about the damage littering has on their environment and consequently, their health. Underprivileged children are not only starved by a lack of food, but by a lack of entertainment options. Most of us have phones, tablets and TV screens to occupy ourselves and kids, not to mention gardens and swimming pools. The children of Vusumuzi only have a dusty, gravel soccer “field” and a dump site filled with plastic waste and human excrement to play in. Khuthaza Foundation saw the situation and immediately added a cleanup to our Events Calendar.
While the smaller kids were ecobricking, some of the older children helped dig holes and plant the 8 trees we donated to the centre on the day. After the workshop and tree planting, it was Chef’s turn to shine. Each Chef produced a personalised gourmet dish made with the usual ingredients that are donated to the Centre. There was organised chaos as 350 meals were served on the day. The residents were treated to vegetarian dishes made from healthy ingredients like lentils, which have 0,2g of combined fats, 0% Cholesterol, they are high in Potassium, Dietary Fibres, Calcium, and Protein. They served delicious butternut dishes, rich in Vitamin A, a deficiency of which could lead to delayed growth, poor night vision and an inability to heal from wounds. Mixed Peppers were included for colour and taste. Peppers grow prolifically and easily. This crop is full of Vitamin C and a red pepper contains more Vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is vital for the proper functioning of our immune systems and maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth. Making healthier food options available to feeding schemes to include in their dishes will go a long way to improving the health and lives of those in need.
Our permaculture programs are one of the antidotes for these issues. Building raised beds and growing foods that are rich in nutrients to add to a feeding scheme’s menu, provides minerals and vitamins vital for a child’s development. We are also busy with educational manuals that will be used to inform people about the value of good nutrition and how to start and grow your own food supply. Food gardens are an excellent way to get communities actively involved in their own upliftment. By growing plants as a food source, not only are they reclaiming the land, but they are gaining valuable knowledge and skills that could prove vital in the future, by providing superfoods that improve health and brain functioning and giving a sense of ubuntu.