Food Dialogues

Diverse voices in an inclusive dialogue to foster a healthier, more resilient and just food system.

Food Dialogues 2021

Food Dialogues: Cape Town 2021 was a virtual event hosted from 6 August – 14 October 2021, themed around the local voices of ordinary residents. It took the 2020 event as a point of departure for bringing further diversity of voices into dialogue regarding our food system, turning away from exclusive engagement with experts and toward more lived experiences of individuals who engage in their own ways with the food system daily, and over the course of a lifetime.

The event kicked off with the release of 10 pre-recorded interviews with local residents, several of whom then participated in a live panel discussion, Local Voices, where ideas for solutions to the challenges, dreams for the future, and opportunities for ordinary people to help one another were shared.

A second panel discussion was hosted, Dialogues through Food, with three chefs bringing a virtual plate of food to the table, using the medium of food to explore how a plate of food connects us to our society and culture, to one another, to memory, our economy and our future.

Key moments from these events were consolidated into a video montage:

Food Dialogues 2021 Key Moments

A third panel, Global Events, Local Insights, was hosted with food systems experts to unpack the dynamics between global events and local realities, drawing on the contemporaneous staging of the UN Food Systems Summit to explore how these global-local dynamics help illuminate our problems and opportunities in Cape Town, and what lessons and insights can assist with the challenges we face in our local food system.

Food Dialogues 2021 was hosted by the SA Urban Food & Farming Trust with co-host and sponsor SOLVE@Waterfront and co-sponsored by the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. Partners included the African Centre for Cities, the Southern Africa Food Lab, ICLEI Africa, City of Cape Town, Western Cape Government, Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, Oranjezicht City Farm and Market and Derrick.

The full 5.5 hours of recorded engagements are available for viewing on the Food Dialogues YouTube channel.

Related documents:

Food Dialogues can contribute towards us thinking about new ways of doing things, and learning, even if we’re learning from people that we don’t agree with.”

Prof. Julian May, Director, DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security.

Food Dialogues 2020

Food Dialogues: Cape Town 2020 was a virtual event hosted from 20 July – 14 August 2020 at 23 speakers from diverse perspectives engaged with 5 moderators and 892 registered participants to produce over 16 hours of recorded dialogue about our food system. The focus was on the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had and will have on Cape Town’s food system, unpacking what has been revealed about our food system; what the state of our food system is at present; what changes have been made, are underway, and are planned that impact our food system; and what futures our food system might develop into. It was an opportunity after the initial shock of the pandemic and lockdown to assess the situation, the response, and the way forward with our food system.

Food Dialogues 2020 speakers and moderators

Produced by the SA Urban Food & Farming Trust, with sponsorship from the SA Centre of Excellence in Food Security and the DG Murray Trust, in partnership with the African Centre for Cities, Oribi Village, the City of Cape Town, ICLEI Africa and Derrick.

The full 16 hours of recorded engagements are available for viewing on the Food Dialogues YouTube channel.

Highlights from each of the five themes of the event are also available on the channel and at the links below:

Related documents:

The Food Dialogues provided a space to engage deeply in the complexity of the Cape Town food system. They refused to have a single story. They refused to amplify a single set of voices. They provide the starting point, and not the end point, for many sets of complex, difficult and messy conversations about food.”

Jane Battersby, Assoc. Prof., African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.

Food Dialogues Report

The Food Dialogues Report 2020 was launched on World Food Day, Friday 16 October 2020. Follow information about the Report across social media on Facebook, Instagram: @food_dialogues, Twitter: @food_dialogues, and LinkedIn.

The Report weaves together common threads from the wide range of speakers, topics, themes, and talks that were part of the Food Dialogues event. It elevates the deep insights reached in the dialogues, and consolidates the diverse and varied perspectives and recommendations offered throughout the engagement. It is a resource that others can draw upon for guidance in shaping policies, activism, projects, and programmes to make a difference in our food system.

Download the Report.

The Food Dialogues are critically important because they provide a rare opportunity for citizens and other stakeholders to learn from grassroots activists alongside government officials, university professors, and business people. Only by connecting these different perspectives and knowledges will we able to foster meaningful change in our food systems.”

Prof. Julian May, Director, DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security

Food Dialogues Vision

Food Dialogues is a facilitated, multi-stakeholder programme designed to help bring under-represented and marginalised voices to the discussion of food system issues in any city, to deepen understanding of the issues and opportunities within the food system and foster mutual understanding among diverse stakeholders, to support identification of a set of common priorities, facilitate ongoing collaboration and encourage establishment of appropriate institutional structures to support improved food system governance and accelerate positive change of food systems.

The stakeholders participating in a Food Dialogue can also opt in to a more or less formal structure appropriate to the time and need of the particular city to continue the engagement beyond the dates of the programme itself. This might take the form of a Food Knowledge Network, a Local Food Alliance, a Local Food Forum, or lead to formation of a Food Policy Council or similar entity.

The Food Dialogues virtual platform is scalable and allows multiple city-region food systems to make use of it independently to suit their own circumstances and priorities. Discussions are underway with a number of city networks, international NGOs and municipalities regarding future Food Dialogues events.

For more information, or to explore the possibilities for your city, email

Food Dialogues 2014

In 2014, The Oranjezicht City Farm first conceived of and produced a 10-part series on the food system in Cape Town called the Food Dialogues. This series was a platform for sharing ideas about creating a healthier, more conscious and just food system in the Mother City.

Food Dialogues sessions brought together a wide range of speakers involved in shaping the food system, providing an opportunity for food growers, academics, activists, writers, nutritionists, food lovers and anyone interested in a sustainable approach to engage in key issues intimately connected to the food we eat and the future of food in Cape Town.

The proceedings were edited into the Food Dialogues Report by award-winning South African science writer, Leonie Joubert, author of The Hungry Season: Feeding Southern Africa’s Cities. The Report draws out the narratives, extracts the themes expressed by the various speakers, and unpacks opportunities and ideas that emerged as trends through the discussions. The report was workshopped with the Food Dialogues presenters, through a Cape Town Partnership Green Clusters event, and is published by the Oranjezicht City Farm, with support from the Cape Town Partnership.

Launched on World Food Day 2014, the Food Dialogues Report is packed with local insight and recommendations for action, and is essential reading for anyone who cares about food, nutrition, public health, food security, urban planning, environmental issues and the state of our Mother City.

Download the full report [ hi-res | web ].