This Saturday, October 7th, Slow Food Johannesburg and the University of Johannesburg will present the Soweto Eat In at the University campus. This is an event that brings together consumers and producers, chefs and schools, and everyone working for good, clean and fair food in South Africa.
Soweto is a township steeped in tradition, famous around the world for its historic role in resistance to the Apartheid regime. Still as politically relevant to South Africa today, it is a vibrant and productive area, packed with over 2000 small scale agriculturalists. We feel that the people of Soweto needs to be made more aware of what is happening in their own community, as this is a place where work is being done every day to change the food system. By bringing chefs to the area, we shows the community how dishes that are already a normal part of their daily menu can be elevated to more delicious and nutritious levels through new interpretations of ingredients.
Meat is an essential part of African diets and by showing different ways of cooking, we can ensure that every part of the animal is used to create dishes, massively reducing waste. This is particularly important in a country where the staple diet is predominantly GM maize, which is over-refined and lacking in essential nutrients. Eating the whole animal will reduce the costs of meat production, improve revenues for farmers who are able to sell more of the meat from their animals and hopefully reduce demand for GM maize.
The highlight of the event will be the Skaftini Challenge, where with a budget of only 20 South African Rand ($1.50) participants have to create the healthiest, most delicious lunchbox possible.
Skaftini is a colloquial word used in Soweto and environs by South Africa’s indigenous communities to describe a lunch box. The chefs’ schools have been tasked with producing a nutritionally balanced meal, including a drink for less than 20 Rand. For many households even this is too much, but with 55% of people suffering from malnutrition in South Africa we have to do something to change the status quo. That is why we have included UN World Food Program as a partner in the event.
Of particular significance is the conference, concentrating on urban food systems, with numerous guest speakers from across the academic world, including Professor Francesco Sottile from Palermo, Italy. This will be held simultaneously in two 300 seat venues and is a significant discussion on changing the food system in our country. In addition, Slow Food Johannesburg has donated a school garden to the venue which will be used to supplement the feeding of the school’s 400 students, as well as acting as a training facility for the school, the University of Johannesburg and the Soweto community as a whole. The garden is already established and is growing over 1500 seedlings of appropriate local produce.
What we hope to achieve is a wider, deeper awareness of three issues: Community, Slow Food, and youth nutrition. Education is the key to a brighter future, and events like this one demonstrate Slow Food’s commitment to active participation in community activities. We cannot hope to ensure good, clean and fair food for all by simply passively observing!