How chef Siba Mtongana helps to end hunger


South African celebrity chef and author Sibahle Mtongana is combining her love for food with philanthropy. She has been appointed a global impact ambassador for Stop Hunger Now and recently travelled to the US as part of her role. We find out more from her.

South Africa’s ‘Sibalicious’ chef, Sibahle Mtongana, travels to the US in October 2016 as a global impact ambassador for Stop Hunger Now to raise awareness about ending world hunger. (Image: Sibahle Mtongana, Facebook)

Priya Pitamber

South African celebrity chef, author and entrepreneur Sibahle Mtongana – simply known as Siba – has added another achievement to her extensive CV. She is also tackling hunger in her role as global impact ambassador for the international organisation Stop Hunger Now.

In October, the host of the Food Network show, Siba’s Table, toured the US to raise awareness of world hunger during the How We Rise tour.
She spent three weeks in the country, where her activities included media appearances and presentations at meal packaging events in Raleigh, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC.

Rod Brooks, Stop Hunger Now CEO, said that during the campaign in South Africa, Mtongana spoke about how, as a child, she had been fortunate to receive food at school which had been donated by caring individuals.

“As a global impact ambassador for Stop Hunger Now, Siba is paying that kindness forward by encouraging her many followers to get involved with Stop Hunger Now’s efforts to end hunger in our lifetime,” he said. “She is truly a champion.”

We caught up with Mtongana to find out more about her trip to the US.

Tell us about how you were chosen to be the global impact ambassador for Stop Hunger Now.

I was approached to be ambassador for Global Mandela Day last year and through that campaign they asked me to be their global impact ambassador.

They invited me to the US, to be there around 16 October 2016, which is World Food Day, to raise awareness about hunger. It lines up with Stop Hunger Now and the UN’s Sustainable Goals vision to end hunger by 2030.

What does the role entail?

My role is to be an advocate for change and raise awareness of the scourge of hunger on behalf of 795-million people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition on a daily basis.

We do this through presentations at big corporate organisations, government institutions, educational institutions and faith groups, raising awareness around this astronomic challenge we are facing on a global scale.

How does your being South African help to elevate the country’s profile internationally?

It does in many ways. Being a global ambassador for such a powerful initiative does promote South Africa as I’m always introduced on its global platforms as a South African. During interviews I mention that I was born in Mdantsane township in East London, and there’s always interest to know more. I learnt that knowledge of South Africa and Africa as a whole in many ways is skewed.

I always use the platforms to talk about all the great and positive things that we have achieved as a nation and areas where we have pioneered, which are not necessarily published across the world. For example, during a live TV interview in New York I spoke about the health implications of sugar and salt. I spoke about how South Africa was currently at war with sugar and how it was the first country [in Africa] to pass legislation to monitor the use of sugar in products, as well as how retailers had been challenged to put health manifestos on their shelves about all these health-threatening ingredients.

They were very impressed by how we had pioneered as a country. They were also very inspired by my personal story – about how I had become a global brand yet had grown up in a township. It’s a great South African story that always changes perceptions of people from Africa and, to be specific, South Africa.

It also positions us as global players who are seen as contributors and givers, as well as part of the solution to global conversations and initiatives.

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

    • I had a meeting with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, at the UN headquarters in New York.

    • I delivered a keynote address at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, in San Francisco, as well as at IBM World of Watson in Las Vegas.

  • And, I think, highlights were also visiting some of the US’s most influential cities, such as New York, Washington DC, Raleigh, Atlanta, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

How does the organisation, Stop Hunger Now, affect South Africa?

Did you know that in South Africa, more than three million children go without food daily? That’s a scary number.

There is a local office of Stop Hunger Now for Southern Africa which supports a lot of schools, especially day care centres, that are not funded by the government. Stop Hunger Now steps in and supports these establishments through food and other items. This allows the schools to spend money on improving their infrastructure instead, so they can stand on their own or be able to qualify for government assistance.

In terms of the foodie scene, how does the US differ from South Africa?

The food culture in the US is very “American” and some areas have strong Mexican and Asian influences.

We have a lot of similarities, though, I think. I thoroughly enjoyed the farmers’ markets in San Francisco and Raleigh. New York is a melting pot of influences from all over the world.

I finally tried the original world-famous cronut (a croissant doughnut hybrid) from Dominique Ansel Bakery.

I guess what shook me was how huge their portion sizes of food were.

How did you expand your culinary knowledge during your visit?

Travelling is an education. You learn a lot about people, their culture and their food. When you are visiting another country, be a local and explore the destination you are visiting to its fullest.

I ate as much American food as I could to expand my knowledge of how they ate. Some food wasn’t really my kind of vibe but I did try it to learn and broaden my scope of global cuisine. Some of the food I’m making lately is inspired by my trip.

Do you have anything else to add?

I’m really determined to use my global influence for positive change and also to change the narratives about and perceptions of South Africa.

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