Turning waste into delicious meals, delicacies for the vulnerable

…Johannesburg chefs feeding thousands daily


Bongani Siziba

Johannesburg – A box of squashed tomatoes and other vegetables are piled in a corner at a Johannesburg fresh produce market ready to be thrown away.

While for most these are only fit for the dump but for many, these are still good enough for the table.

Photo Credit: Bongani Siziba

As they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Chefs with Compassion has been rescuing such foods and using it to feed the needy.

As scores around the world went into isolation on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, some have taken the opportunity to become heroes bringing positive change among other things feeding the hungry.

This has been especially imperative given that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased food insecurity for many South African households.

The situation has been exacerbated by the loss of jobs and income during long lockdowns imposed by the government to arrest the increase in Covid-19 cases.

And Chefs with Compassion, a coalition of 300 chefs backed by several global organisations, restaurant owners and volunteers have come up with a feeding scheme which prepares meals daily for the needy and vulnerable.

Founded in April 2020, a month after the first lockdown, the organisation has brought immense relief for many disadvantaged people.

Yajna Maharaj of the South Africa Chefs Association, who is also part of the Chefs with Compassion said the initiative was inspired by the rise in food insecurity.

“We go to the market, look for fruits and vegetables that has been earmarked for dumping and rescue it. We then use it to feed the needy,” Maharaj said.

Nishan Kishoora, the founder of Infinity Foundation, one of the beneficiaries of waste vegetables from the Johannesburg Market said: “We have partnered with Chefs with Compassion so that when they get vegetables from the market, we make meals out of them”.

“Apart from the meals, we also hand out food parcels to 15 000 people weekly,” Kishoora said.

As beneficiaries, Infinity Foundation also keeps the chain going. Daily they make soup and cook for Malaika Children’s Home in Hillbrow.

“When they come in with food parcels and soup, it helps feed children. The donations have really helped us here,” said Sebichwe Juma, the founder of Malaika Ophanage which houses 90 children.

Since last April, Chefs with Compassion has provided more than 1.3 million meals for needy people. The organisation also has volunteer student chefs who have dropped out of school as a result of Covid-19. They assist with sorting out the vegetables.

“It feels so good to help. Daily, when l salvage vegetables, clean them and make sure they are ready for consumption, it gives me joy,” said Austine Nxumalo, a chef volunteer.

According to statistics, South Africa’s 2019 General household survey over, 10 million tonnes of food is wasted annually while more than 16 million people fail to eat daily.


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