Johannesburg - Women make up almost half of the globe’s population and are the cornerstone of every society they live in.
From family to business and philanthropy, the fairer sex’s most vital contribution to the world is also their ability to bring life into it.
But the kitchen and the food industry is also a space where women are essential as they for generations have fed their families and loved ones.
In a bid to celebrate women in food, next week’s Decorex Cape Town will for the very first time feature an interactive jar swop initiative which will go towards feeding the Mother City’s hungry.
The food jar exchange, which will contain donated preserved foods, personal stories and recipes, is the brainchild of Hannerie Visser of Studio H, a culinary-minded design team offering creative brand solutions from strategy and new product development to innovation workshops, trend reports and content creation.
The recipe story cards will be compiled into an online archive and the exchange zone will be moved to Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront to keep the jar exchange going.
Visser explained to The Saturday Star this week that the concept, which comes from the “kitchen” of FOOD XX, a platform dedicated to women in food, is also a symbol of compassion and humanity.
“A small gesture can make a big difference because donating one jar of food can help alleviate hunger in our immediate community,” she said.
The FOOD XX JAR EXCHANGE at Decorex Cape Town also goes back to age-old traditions as Visser and her team look to address high rates of hunger in local communities.
“For centuries, women have preserved food and their cultural heritage through the age-old tradition of canning, jamming and pickling,” Visser said.
She added that the dedicated FOOD XX stand will also be an exchange hub where anyone – not just women – from all over the peninsula will come to swop a jar of their preserves with a card attached sharing the story and recipe of the food in the jar.
“If you don’t make your own preserves, you are welcome to donate the store-bought variety, with a shared anecdote as to why it’s your favourite – anything from jam to gherkins, pickled onions, beetroot and even kimchi.”
Each donor will then receive an empty jar, courtesy of Consol.
“We are also already overwhelmed by donations from brands such as Bergsoom Pure Foods, who want to donate 1 000 jars to the project.”
Visser added that preserving food also helps to combat food waste.
“I am hoping to find some new and exciting ideas and recipes that will inspire more people to preserve food.”
Visser said she undertook this initiative because she believes she can make a difference to starving Cape Town residents.
“As a studio focusing on food design, we believe that we have a responsibility to have our approach deeply rooted in a conscious design process.”
The donated food jars at Decorex Cape Town will then be donated to Ladles of Love, a non-profit Cape Town organisation.
Visser explained that 12% of South Africans lack food security and that Ladles of Love feeds the hungry in Cape Town through the provision of healthy food from a network of NPOs.
But Decorex Cape Town’s FOOD XX JAR EXCHANGE is also a celebration of women in food as the concept comes from a platform dedicated to women in this space.
“FOOD XX is active via its awards, conferencing and subsidiary events that deliver life-changing and empowering content for women, by women.”
The initiative will also be an opportunity for attendees at the event to nominate their favourite women in food for this year’s awards at Decorex Cape Town.
“Women are a vital and integral part of all industries and yet are under-represented in leadership positions and there are still significant pay disparities between men and women,” Visser said.
She explained that despite the increased focus from institutional investors and boards, the female representation at senior management and executive levels in South Africa is still on average only at 20% as reported in PwC’s REM channel July 2018 publication.
The survey consists of remuneration data for more than 550 participating organisations and just over 4 000 senior managers and executives. The data indicates that 61% of the women are remunerated below the median of the sample in comparison to 39% of men. In contrast, 63% of men are remunerated above the median in comparison to 37% of women in the sample.
“From this data, it is clear that corporate South Africa still needs to focus on ensuring that female numbers are increased at these levels in addition to addressing gender pay inequalities.”
Visser also wants women’s contribution to society to be highlighted, and the jar swop initiative is one way of achieving this.
“Consisting of half the world, women have the collective power to affect stock markets, policies, corporate and creative industries, their own lives and the lives of the women around them,” she said.
“FOOD XX identified the need for a safe space for women in food to build networks, celebrate and support one another, and have much-needed conversations to find solutions together.”
It is also dedicated to empowering and celebrating women and the LGBTQIA+ community in the food and drinks industry.
Decorex Cape Town will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from June 16 to 19.