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Sobantu community member Ms Philisiwe Sithole,
who is growing vegetables to feed her family.

A five-day Food Festival was hosted by the Paulo Freire project at UKZN’s Centre for Adult Education on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

The festival included movies, discussions/seminars, field trips, workshops, demonstrations and healthy organic lunches comprising locally-sourced produce.

The overall event was organised by students and staff from various disciplines and two local NGOs.

According to one of the organisers, Dr Anne Harley, the Food Festival created a platform for an examination of a wide range of issues, from hunger (including student hunger) to obesity, from genetic modification to junk food, from farm worker struggles to subsistence farming struggles, from the way our food is made to how it ends up on our plate, and all the links between the issues.

‘The Food Festival looked at not only what’s happening, and why, but also at practical things we can do to make things better. The event also brought together those who are actually experiencing issues relating to food to talk about their experiences, and their thinking about this, and the struggles they have been involved in, and academics who have been studying these issues,’ said Harley.

Four different films were shown during the Food Festival; each carefully selected to explore a wide range of issues and links such as industrial farming methods, junk food, health issues, worker rights, animal rights, urban gardens, seed banks, and food sovereignty. Group discussions were held after the shows.

Discussions were held on the experiences of food insecurity within the South African university student population with Psychology staffer Mr Nicholas Munro, presenting the results from a study he conducted on the extent of vulnerability to food insecurity among UKZN students.

Based on extensive data gathered between 2007 and 2010, the findings from the study suggest that 20.8 percent of UKZN students experience some level of vulnerability to food insecurity. Within this 20.8 percent, 4.7 percent were found to be severe to critically vulnerable to food insecurity. Students on financial aid and those in access/foundation programmes were also found to be more vulnerable to food insecurity when compared to those not on financial aid and those in mainstream programmes respectively.

The Food Festival also provided a healthy lunch. ‘We wanted to provide a meal that was not poisoned, packaged, and heavy with food miles, so we looked for produce that was free-range, local or organic,’ said another organiser, Ms Morag Peden. The lunch was held in the tea room in the Education building on campus.

Four third-year students who had created a food garden as part of Education and Development and Politics service learning modules, gave demonstrations on and explain how they had made the garden.

As part of the festival, a field trip was organised with visits being made to a variety of food gardens in Sobantu township, Broadleaze certified organic farm and even the Share-Garden in the suburb of Wembley.