Meet the team – Ilet Jonker

Meet the team – Ilet Jonker

Ilet has been a staunch Nosh supporter from the beginning of our journey in 2015 and eventually came on board as one of the Directors when we registered as a non-profit. At the beginning of the Covid period she saw her opportunity and got deeply involved with developing the food rescue activities at the fresh produce markets, so when she laughingly – and belatedly – told us she had a phobia of ‘vrot’ food when she was younger, we asked her to share part of her story. Quick disclaimer though – not nearly all of what Nosh works with is ‘rotten’, we promise 😉 !

“Growing up, one of my biggest phobias was rotten food. I wouldn’t even go into the same kitchen where there was a brown and squishy head of lettuce and I would scream in angst and run out of the kitchen if my finger happened to touch a black spot on a tomato forgotten in the bottom of the veggie drawer. This was known throughout my family, and it was no surprise to them to see me periodically running out of the kitchen flailing my arms.

This was until I grew up and started learning about food waste and food insecurity – and also when I started paying for my own food. Slowly my perception started changing and I started perceiving the not-so-perfect fruits and veggies as the underdogs of the fresh produce section, and I started not only rooting for them – I started purposefully buying the unpopular produce, in a bid to help them achieve their destiny – to provide nourishment and life.

As time went by and my mind started to discover the journey the produce had to undergo to land up on my plate, it sprung to my mind just how many resources are used to achieve this end goal! The soil was painstakingly prepared, the seeds meticulously planted, the seedlings religiously watered, hands took care of the plants as if they were their own babies, keeping them healthy, nourished and pest free – and did so with pride. When the time came to harvest, they were picked, sorted, packaged and then undertook the long journey to a Fresh Produce Market, where they were proudly put on display in the hopes that the right person would arrive to buy them.

But sometimes, that person doesn’t arrive, and the produce waits days and even weeks. They become blemished and brown, looking sadder and sadder with each passing day, becoming less and less desirable, until they eventually become squishy and leaky – unsellable, marked for disposal.

The opportunity came to me at the beginning of the Covid lockdown in March 2021 to get more involved with Nosh and help save forgotten and unloved produce.

My passion for saving food then totally overcame my absolute phobia of expired produce and I started viewing all the sad-looking boxes of fruits and vegetables as a bunch of forgotten and miserable orphans, desperately looking for a loving home in the digestive tract of a lucky recipient. Scratching through the bags of sometimes-slimy carrots, rescuing those that were still perfectly healthy, sorting through the boxes of overripe tomatoes, finding the firm and shiny ones amongst them, and once, digging my hands into a pile of steamy smelly kale, saving the perfectly firm green leaves from the rest of their atrocious-looking friends, has brought me an unexpected calling which I couldn’t have imagined as that whiney kid from way back when. Oh, how I have grown!

The thought of all the resources, now not going to waste, of produce living out its destiny and of empty bellies that will be fed and hungry bodies being nourished with fruit and veg which otherwise would’ve ended up in a landfill has brought me a different kind of fulfillment, which has now turned into a mission. I will never look at a box of limp produce with the same eyes again – where others see decay, I now see another opportunity to save lives. All of them.”

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