Helping to feed our future

Human geographer Dr Jane Battersby of Bergvliet has an interest in all thing’s food related.

Around one in four children under the age of 5 are stunted and there’s a growing rate of adult and childhood obesity in South Africa, says Dr Jane Battersby, a human geographer from Bergvliet with an interest in all things food-related.

She is convening the Feeding our Future event, which is part of the Food Dialogues 2022 programme that began on Monday July 18 and ends on Monday August 1.

Hosted by the SA Urban Food & Farming Trust with co-host and sponsor the V&A Waterfront, Food Dialogues 2022 includes panel discussions, hands-on cooking classes for the whole family, walking tours, communal meals and art installations, and it is taking place at the V&A Waterfront, Philippi Village and Bertha House in Mowbray.

Dr Battersby has been working through the African Centre for Cities at UCT with Food Dialogues since its first set of events in 2014 and on urban food security and food systems since 2007. In 2020 and 2021, they did several talks and panel discussions online because of Covid.

She said her event emerged from the Nourished Child Project, which addresses child malnutrition in the Western Cape, by working with provincial and local government and community groups.

“The event aims to share challenges and potential solutions for nourishing children through their first 1 000 days of life,” said Dr Battersby.

She said child malnutrition was a critical challenge in South Africa. This could be caused by people’s food choices. Her research shows how poor access to reliable energy supplies, clean water and waste management undermines child nutrition.

“Using the research project, we created a video, Feeding Nosipho: Working together to secure nutritious diets, building on the story of Nosipho, a 4-year-old girl living in Masiphumelele, to show how these factors connect to shape her diet.

“We want to start conversations with policymakers, NGOs and community groups to create an understanding of the issues and to encourage new conversations about possible solutions. We’ve done three versions. The longer version is for policymakers with a set of recommendations that has been well received and has generated political will. There is a shorter English language version with isiXhosa subtitles and an isiXhosa language version.

“Using materials from the project, this stimulates conversations between community kitchen leaders, ECD workers, food gardeners, to learn from each other about where support can be leveraged and new networks of action formed.”

SA Urban Food & Farming Trust CEO and organiser Kurt Ackermann, of Oranjezicht, said food was a medium for heritage, culture and innovation. “And it’s deeply ingrained in society for survival as well as identity. Food is also society’s mirror – a reflection of classism and inequality. These challenges require more engagement, sharing of ideas, expertise and innovation, but also celebration of our cross-cultural identities and foodways.”

Some events are free to attend while others have an entry fee. For more information, log on to https://fairfood.org.za/food-dialogues/

Feeding Nosipho: Working together to secure nutritious diets is available on YouTube.