Friday the 15th of January I was at the closing event of the Foundation for Tomorrow workshop cycle which aims to educate women about the water footprint of home cooking. The women who attended the cooking workshops were awarded a special certificate to acknowledge their expertise on cooking home made meals more sustainably. More that 70 women attended the ceremony, most of them are of a Turkish background.
The Foundation for Tomorrow (Stichting voor Morgen) is the initiative of Sevim Zor, who is a ICT software engineer working in the Netherlands, but with a background in Turkey. Sevim started the Foundation in order to make available scientific information about water footprint in an easily understandable way for practical situations in daily life. One of the projects is a series of ten workshops Cook for Tomorrow (Koken voor Morgen), which were given in low income neighborhoods in The Hague aimed at people of different ethnic backgrounds. Workshop participants are stimulated to cook their (traditional) dishes with produce grown regionally (rather than in their country of origin), and also to store them properly in order to avoid wasting food.
One of the workshops has been attended by two colleagues of mine from the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Leo Dvortsin who is a researcher interested in ethnic food and ethnic entrepreneurship and Mehmet Dogan who acted as interpreter. Leo is also one of the co-authors of a study into the market potential for ethnic food, commissioned by the Task Force Multifunctional Agriculture, published in january.
The Foundation for Tomorrow features as a case study in this report, and it is a very inspiring example for those who are busy making our urban food systems more sustainable without losing sight of the socio-economic constraints that many city dwellers face, as well as celebrating the ethnic diversity that inhabits our country.
‘’The ceremony is not the closing event’’, said Sevim Zor, who took the initiative for the cooking workshops more than three years ago. She plans to roll out the concept to other groups of women in The Hague and also to other Dutch cities with large ethnic communities. The festivities this morning also included a little quiz competition, where people were asked to raise their hands in a multiple choice questionnaire setting to estimate the water content of several ingredients, often used in ethnic dishes.
The winners were awarded a set of practically designed placemats, that can be used in the kitchen, and which show information about water content of food ingredients as well as recipes of more sustainable (Turkish) dishes. These placemats will also be the new teaching material for the upcoming workshops. ‘’Women who cook every day meals are not just cooks but also teachers’’, said Sevim, ‘’they should encourage other family members to be more conscious about using scarce resources, such as food, water and energy’’.
One of the concerns of the Foundation is however that its activities depend on voluntary work to a large extend. The women who organize the workshops may have demanding jobs elsewhere as well. The workshop cycle was sponsored (by Fonds 1818) but the women devote so much more time to organize everything efficiently and effectively. If this is to become a bigger initiative, the funding issue requires more attention. I was the only male attending the meeting (except for Omar Hunkar, a personal friend of Sevim and the photographer for this occasion). And although the teaching material is all in Dutch, for the most of the time the women socialized in Turkish, a language I do not understand. But it was a fantastic experience, the Foundation for Tomorrow is a gem in the Dutch metropolitan landscape worth nurturing, no matter the language used to convey the message.