A Food Security Internship for more nutritious School Meals

A Food Security Internship for more nutritious School Meals

Written by: Marie Schneider

Caroline’s impact on the hunger and food insecurity problem in South Africa

We checked in with Caroline, a Food Security and Urban Farming Intern with Urban Harvest in Cape Town. Caroline, who studies Food Innovation back home in the Netherlands is very enthusiastic about her internship. We were glad to hear she has found an internship which matches both her passions and professional interests. During the day we have spent with her, we had a glimpse into her meaningful day-to-day work but also saw the challenges she is facing while trying to make an impact.

Urban Harvest

Caroline’s internship organization of choice is South Africa’s oldest edible garden service. The for-profit organization installs and maintains edible gardens for passionate horticulturalists (who don’t really have the time for gardening) and companies. However, a large part of Urban Harvest’s work is also dedicated to non-profit projects: Installing edible gardens in schools and underprivileged communities around Cape Town. By doing that, Urban Harvest wants to take its part in solving the hunger and food insecurity problem in South Africa. This is where Caroline’s work comes in as well. Her main focus of the Food Security Internship is on proposing innovations to make school meals more nutritious using vegetables from the garden.

The Importance of School Meals

We met with Caroline at Urban Harvest’s garden next to the Mary Kihn Primary School. It is a special school for partially hearing children who come from all the different backgrounds. As a first thing in the morning, Caroline feeds the chicken – her “babies” as her co-workers call them. Without any doubt, Caroline loves chicken. On top, she knows everything about keeping them as she has chicken herself at home in the Netherlands! While we were feeding the chicken, one girl from the school joined us and she seemed to be in love with the chicken as well. Afterward, Caroline told us that the girl probably doesn’t get much food at home as she comes to school hungry almost every morning. This was very distressing to hear and we got to understand the huge importance of school meals.

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Caroline’s Project

So, if some of the children only eat at school, how can the school make sure that these meals are as nutritious as possible? Caroline has the answer! Using vegetables from the edible garden next to the school in the meals will make them healthier and more nutritious. Furthermore, she is looking into ways to store the vegetables if they can’t be used immediately. And she has many ideas. For instance, making a tomato sauce or pickled beetroot which can be stored in the school kitchen for quick meals.

However, she faces some challenges in the implementation of her ideas. The kitchen staff has its own cooking standards which are influenced by culture and experience. Caroline believes that her time with Urban Harvest is too short to change their minds. Anyways, it doesn’t stop her from trying! Her ideas are creating a poster explaining how to cook with the least common veggies and introducing a cooking class with the children. She wants to make an impact on both sides – in the school kitchen and on the kids directly.

The Cooking Class

We got very lucky to join her for her first cooking class with the children. In the future, she wants to hold a cooking class each week to teach the kids a healthier lifestyle. Caroline’s theory; if the kids like the healthy, nutritious dishes, they can use the acquired cooking skills at home. After lunchtime, we met with the teacher and a group of 8 girls between 12 and 14 years. On the menu were cabbage fritters, cauliflower mac and cheese, and celery lemonade. We could observe the bewilderment in the kids’ eyes when Caroline announced the dishes. And, to be fair we have never tried replacing pasta with cauliflower and adding celery to a lemonade either.

Despite the skepticism of the kids and the challenge to cook in a small classroom with barely any cooking utensils, the food turned out to be great! We enjoyed it and the girls (with a few exceptions) did as well. Caroline, who wanted to be a teacher before she decided to study Food Innovation, was very happy about the success of her first cooking class. These classes are a major step towards her goal of implementing a more nutritious diet. She hopes that the next Urban Harvest Intern will carry on her “legacy”. Furthermore, she hopes the products cooked in the classes (tomato sauce etc.) can be sold by the school. As a result, the money could be used for the maintenance of the school and for building a real cooking classroom.

Do you want to carry on Caroline’s legacy? Check out the Food Security and Urban Farming Internship!

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The Food Security Internship in Africa – A perfect Match

Caroline is not the kind of person who likes to work in an office every day of the week. She is a hands-on person with a great passion for food, flowers, and nature. When we were walking around Urban Harvest’s garden, she told us how much she loved working outside. Looking around the colorful garden with stunning views of Table Mountain, it wasn’t hard for us to believe that!

Additionally, due to Urban Harvest’s strong collaboration with the primary school, Caroline could combine her passion for food and plants with working with children. The internship made her realize that she loves this combination of education and food innovation. Her biggest achievement so far – teaching a lot of people loads about chicken and vegetables!

“I love bringing people together through cooking. Despite the fact that I hate cooking for myself, I very much enjoy doing it for other people! This is why I introduced “family dinner” with my roommates where I cook fresh and healthy food for all of us. Often I even use vegetables from the edible garden. Also, I sometimes cook for my co-workers who usually are not the biggest fans of eating vegetables. I see it as a challenge to make healthy eating palatable to them. So, it always makes me so proud when they actually like it. Showing people how enjoyable, diverse and fun food and cooking can be, is my biggest pleasure.”

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