Fight against hunger starts at home

A Beacon Valley orphanage is working with food activists to fight hunger in homes right on its doorstep.

Baitul Ansaar Child Care Centre, a non-profit, launched its food garden, which is part of its 100 Home Project, earlier this month after finding that poverty and hunger were stalking families in the area.

The orphanage, with the help of University of the Western Cape (UWC) medical students, did a survey in the neighbourhood late last year, and what it found was disturbing.

“Many of the homes did not have food during the last week of the month,” said project co-ordinator Zahra Sadeghi.

“Many of the children from the orphanage who were fostered in this community usually return because their foster parents are not fit to look after them properly. We identified these issues and came up with interventions to address them.”

Bushra Razack, the orphanage’s managing director, said they had identified 100 nearby homes that were in need.

The project runs on a value-exchange principle. “If a resident is a carpenter; he or she will help us by maybe fixing a door of one of the needy residents identified within the project,” said Ms Razack.

The food garden is next to the orphanage and residents tend to it.

“We planted vegetables and medicinal plants that help residents with the chronic illnesses they suffer from,” said Ms Razack.

“A few plants will reach harvesting stage in the next several months.”

An auxiliary social worker, who cannot be named due to the sensitive nature of the cases she deals with, said many of the children at the orphanage came from homes were they had either been abused or neglected.

The Slow Food Youth Network is helping the orphanage by teaching people about all things food-related.

Slow Food, a proponent of small-scale agriculture and ethical, environmentally friendly food production, was founded in 1989 as a push back against the growing fast food culture and the unchecked might of food industry giants.

Zayaan Khan, a Slow Food national co-ordinator said the organisation connected young people working in the food industry and aimed to make the food system more sustainable.

“I play a role in the food security component of the 100 Home Project. The information we convey to residents is not prescriptive. We workshop issues identified by the 100 homes and collectively bring about solutions,” said Ms Khan.

She said they taught residents about healthy eating, while helping them revive old recipes and look at the way they spend money on food.

The orphanage, with help from other organisations, hands out food to the 100 homes four times a week. It also hosts girl empowerment workshops and runs fitness classes. Woodstock photographer Mads Norgaard, who replied to a call for photographers to help with the project in early 2016 has documented its progress and shot portraits of the families involved in it.

Ms Razack said the photographs relayed a sense of family. “Our project focused a lot on the collation of raw data and the photographs add a lighter touch to the project,” she said.